film review: Nowhere Boy (2009)

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Nowhere Boy Poster Aaron JohnsonSaw this a few weeks ago and since it got a few BAFTA nominations the other day I thought I’d better get my act together and do the review. Hey maybe it’ll convince someone to go and see it, after all it only seems to have 424 ratings on IMDb…

Nowhere Boy is a biopic centred around the early life of John Lennon, from around when he starts playing guitar. I’m not actually sure how accurate a portrayal it is. It’s apparently based on Julia Baird’s memoir called Imagine This: Growing Up With My Brother John Lennon. She was his half sister. It appears that the director disagreed with McCartney regarding the potrayal of Lennon’s aunt but given that most of the people involved are dead I guess we’ll never really know. Apparently things were not as… heated, shall we say, as they might appear in the film. I sort of assume that the truth is somewhere in the middle, I’d like to think that if it was completely inaccurate there’d be more hullaballo over the film. Either way, it certainly told me a lot more about John Lennon than I knew before.

I guess since all this is a matter of public record, it’s not really spoiling to say that I never knew there was anything different about Lennon’s early life; that his father left when he was young or that he was raised by his aunt or anything like that. It was interesting to learn about him after all I would consider myself a big fan of The Beatles. I mean it’s not like I own any of their albums or anything but I think highly of them… that’s what happens when you’re as averse to spending money as I am.

So, I found myself really enjoying this film. A lot of this was down to the kid playing Lennon, Aaron Johnson, he was very good. I really thought he captured the idea of Lennon’s character in the film. This kind of cheeky tear-away, charismatic but at the cusp of being dangerous. I have no idea if Lennon was really like that but I believed Johnson.

To be clear though, this isn’t a film about The Beatles so if you’re expecting any of that you’ll be sorely disappointed. They don’t even say the name in film. Paul McCartney is around but only briefly really. Given his reported misgivings about it’s accuracy I wonder if he’s seen the film.

I’ve often thought it must be really odd for McCartney and well… just Beatles week on BBC last year. All this fuss about what must have been for them, it’s just a few mad years they had when they were younger. They’ve lived a long time since then, I’m sure they like looking back at some of it but surely when people draw conclusions about what it was like, for example in this film, it must be very strange for them.

Guess I’ll never know.

Anyway, I did like this film. I wouldn’t recommend that it’s one for everyone but if you are interested in a family drama and you’re willing to accept that you’re probably watching a somewhat skewed version of Lennon’s childhood then give it a look.


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