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Friday, February 25, 2011

I Bought A Ticket To Ride To 'Nowhere Boy'

Nowhere Boy:  4 out of 5

John: Why couldn't God make me Elvis?
Julia: 'Cause he was saving you for John Lennon! 

Nowhere Boy is a fine drama about a look at the teen years of future music phenomenon, John Lennon.  Wisely, beyond many visual and story related hints, the film is not about the creation of The Beatles, nor does the film even mention that group name at any point.  Instead, it is more of an emotional journey for Lennon, as he deals with issues surrounding his family.  The film does also get into his development as a musician as well.  Overall, this is a solid film, featuring some strong lead performances.


Aaron Johnson (Kick Ass, himself) stars as John.  The film is set in Liverpool during the mid to late 1950s.  John lives with his Aunt and Uncle.  He has glasses, which he tends to not wear and attends school.  John has knack for getting himself into trouble and generally acting cocky, despite a layer of emotion right underneath.  The sudden death of his uncle seems to set off a chain of events.  While at the funeral, John spots his real mother, Julia (Anne-Marie Duff).  Given the seemingly cold nature of his Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas), John finds out where Julia lives and begins to spend much more time with her.  It will not be until the end of the film that we find out the true reason as to why John lives with his aunt, but from what we do know, Julia is now married with two little girls of her own (one of which who would grow up to write the book on which this film is based on).

While the two spend time together, little is spoken about the nature of there estranged relationship.  Instead, Julia puts on a smile and introduces John to rock & roll music.  John is also just pleased to be spending time with his mother and immediately grows to love what rock & roll has to offer, particularly Elvis (who John begins to model his look after).  This also leads to John learning how to play guitar, eventually forming his first group, The Quarrymen (also leading to his friendship with some lads named Paul and George).  Even as John’s time at school seems to be suffering, his gift for poetry, musical abilities, and crowd pleasing begin to take hold, along with the coming reveal of the relative relationship drama in his life.

I feel like I could be more critical of this movie, as it hits many of the same beats repeatedly and doesn't necessarily quite as compelling of a story as it could; however, I felt that I really connected with what I say.  I was very invested in the story that this film presented and Johnson's performance as John.  As this movie went on, I found the emotional drama compelling and the music related elements quite well handled.  The story is handled in a fairly simple manner and makes less out of who John Lennon would grow up to be than it maybe should, but I enjoyed it.


The movie was quite well acted all around.  Johnson does a very good job at embodying this version of John.  Kristin Scott Thomas was also quite good, managing to portray a character who is supposed to come off as cold, but ends up developing something more with what she is given.  Duff is also impressive as John's mother, Julia.  She has a way of saying one thing, but emoting something else, which plays perfectly for her character.  Finally, I enjoyed the low key work from Thomas Sangster as Paul McCartney.

The other main through line of this film is John's progression as a musician, which I did not think was explored enough.  It was very neat to see his development as a guitarist and singer, slowly forming the pieces to his band.  While I understand how this aspect was not the story that was being told in the more prominent manner, I did enjoy what I was getting from it.


Photographer turned director, Sam Taylor-Wood, does a solid job at keeping the film invested in its characters, while delivering a film that makes a lot from its mood and tone.  There was an obvious color palette at play, which gave the film its required distinctions.  Overall, it is made well enough.

I think this is a fine film.  It creates an interesting perspective for John Lennon in his early days.  The film is well acted throughout.  The details of the film work well in establishing the period and has a fun enough time with the nods to the future.  It has comedic elements, but the film is overall a drama, and I found it to be an effective one.

John: There's just no point hating someone you love.  

 

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