Archive for December 30th, 2009

Before the Beatles

Review: Nowhere Boy

With a script from Matt Greenhaigh who also wrote the Joy Division biopic Control, Nowhere Boy has a good Start. The direction by Sam Taylor Wood is good if a little safe. We meet John Lennon (Aaron Johnson) in 1955, a rebellious sixteen year old schoolboy whose life is going nowhere. After living with his aunt (Kristin Scott Thomas) since he was five he starts to get to know his mother (Anne-Marie Duff). The relationship isn’t always smooth but she steers him on a course that will change his life and the music industry forever. We see Lennon get his first guitar, change the way he dresses, change his glasses to look like Buddy Holiday and quiffs his hair to look like Elvis.

The film manages to avoid many easy clichés, the only time we see the Cavern club is when Lennon is turned away, the Beatles are never mentioned (but look out for the doodle he draws in class). Instead the movie concentrates on Lennon’s relationships with his mother and the aunt who raised him as well as his developing love of Skiffle and Rock and Roll music. The first meeting between Lennon and McCartney (Thomas Sangster – the kid who played Liam Neeson’s son in Love Actually) at the Quarrymen’s first gig has been well documented and is perfectly handled here. I know less about how George Harrison (Sam Bell) joined the band but the low key nature of the meeting is equally well handled. The way the setting is handled is also to the filmmakers credit, the 1950s Liverpool that Lennon inhabits looks like any other suburban street in the country and not a grimy post war port town that we see in so many clichéd depictions of the ere. The film ends as Lennon and his band leave for Hamburg making it the perfect companion piece for Backbeat (1994).

The film is probably too safe to be great but it is worth seeing for any music fan and is held together by great performances from Aaron Johnson and the ever reliable Kristin Scott Thomas.

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