FILM RATING: 3.5 stars
Are you a fan of The Beatles? If so, then you may want to check out Nowhere Boy (2009). While it’s NOT the story of how The Beatles got started, it IS the coming-of-age story of how John Lennon got started in life and music, including how he met Paul McCartney and created his first rock band, The Quarrymen. Nowhere Boy is a very well made British indie film by first time feature film director Sam Taylor-Wood. It was released on Blu-ray and DVD recently and I’ve been anxiously awaiting it ever since I first saw the trailer. The film barely got a theatrical release here in the U.S., but I think it will find its audience at home instead. This is a character-driven dramatic story that works very well at portraying the early roots of John Lennon, who like so many artistic geniuses, came from a broken, dysfunctional family, where he was pushed and pulled by the influential members of his family. Would Lennon have ever gotten into music if it hadn’t been for his birth mother? Or the conflict between his mother and his aunt (who was the woman that raised him)? Questions like these seem easy to answer in hindsight, but Nowhere Boy takes us through the journey of Lennon finding his voice in his teens.
While I enjoy some of The Beatles music, I’ve never been overly enamored with the the band or the stories of its members, like many obsessive fans. But Nowhere Boy’s trailer somehow got its hook into me and now I’m very glad that it did. Front and center in the film is actor Aaron Johnson, who depicts John Lennon brilliantly. While he doesn’t necessarily look like John Lennon, he embodies the energy and moody emotion of the musician as perfectly as I can imagine an actor could. Not only does Johnson provide us with juicy dialogue in his native British accent, he even takes on singing and playing the guitar quite well. Without a genuine portrayal of the music in this movie by the actors, I have a feeling the film would fall flat on its face and feel more like a made-for-television documentary. It was the music that helped tie the pieces of the story together and keep me engaged and interested. Clearly Johnson is a talented young artist who should have an interesting career in the entertainment industry for years to come. I’ve gotten the soundtrack to the film since watching Nowhere Boy and the re-creations of Lennon’s early music by “The Nowhere Boys” is quite good for a group of actors, all on its own separate from the film.
Nowhere Boy is a beautifully shot film with excellent cinematography by Director of Photography Seamus McGarvey, also known for his work on Atonement (2007). Some of the images of the U.K. are simply incredible, showcasing the beauty hidden within the details of that country, as well as the details of this production (i.e. the actors, the costumes, and the sets). The production design by Alice Normington and her incredible team in the art department gives the film a perfect look and feel that helps tell this story set in the 1950s. Much like The King’s Speech (2010), God is in all the details of this film, including the excellent dialogue and emotional body language written by screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh and portrayed by the incredible cast. Kristin Scott Thomas and the rest of the supporting actors were perfectly cast and help make the film as good as it is.
In terms of graphic design, I really love the movie poster for this film. Sometimes just a well-designed movie poster can get me enticed to see a film, and this poster definitely got me to see the trailer the first time, which then got me to see the film. I just love that image of actor Aaron Johnson as John Lennon with those thick black horn-rimmed glasses, a cigarette poking out of his mouth, and his guitar around his shoulder. Along with the colors and textures in the poster, it’s one of my favorites from 2010.
If you’re looking for a good solid movie set in the past with interesting history into the character development of a man and a musician like John Lennon, Nowhere Boy is a new release definitely worth seeing. While I’m not sure how many repeat viewings this film will get in the future from me, my first viewing was enjoyable and well worth the time. The Blu-ray presentation is definitely the way to go here since the colors and details in the photography need the higher definition format to really sing.