Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Nowhere Boy

Reviews - Nowhere Boy

Nowhere Boy

Reviewed By John Stakes

Nowhere Boy
Nowhere Boy
John Lennon, the “nowhere boy” of last Sunday’s biopic of the Liverpool lad’s early years, had to cope with the same problem as the film’s debut director Sam Taylor Wood….parental abandonment which explains Taylor Woods’ decision to focus on Lennon’s early life for her first foray into the world of film directing. And what a fascinating excursion it turned out to be.

Lennon’s mother Julia (Ann-Marie Duff) took no further part in his formative upbringing when he was but five and he is whisked off by his single-minded almost ferocious auntie Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas) and his uncle George (David Threlfall) to live with them. His father clears off to New Zealand and is never heard of again.

At this point Lennon, (Aaron Johnson) has not yet discovered Elvis and rock and roll, but events including the gift of a harmonica, a family death, his innate rebellious streak, and the gradual re-establishment of a relationship with his mother who has musical talents, combine to steer him in this direction.

Lennon gradually moves from uncertain teenager, through a wannabe Elvis and James Dean phase to a rocker in his own right in a highly entertaining if predictable manner, the soundtrack changing with him. En route he meets up with some of the future Beatles after he’s set up his first band the Quarrymen, and the seeds of their world wide fame are sown.

This is much more of an emotionally involving family melodrama than the usual rags to riches bandwagon movie as Lennon finds himself caught between the two women in his life following his re-introduction to his mother who it turns out lives just around the corner. Taylor Wood infuses this very accomplished and emotive piece of film-making with some of the barbed sarcasm for which Lennon became noted and the acting throughout is commendable particularly from Anne-Marie Duff who displays a vulnerable free spirit and nervous energy which captivates John. It is their relationship which stimulates Lennon’s musical creativity. The casting was inspired not merely from an acting perspective but even to capturing familial resemblances.

The insightful and punchy screenplay which contributed hugely to the film’s authenticity was by Matt Greenhalgh who wrote the very successful film about Joy Division “Control” screened by the club earlier last year. There is obviously much in the film to please Lennon and Beatle fans alike and Taylor Wood’s first effort behind the camera although rather conventional with no directorial flourishes, is nevertheless assured and has a wonderful period feel. Parts were filmed in and around Liverpool including the Woolton Picture House which Lennon frequently visited and is still going strong apparently. Interior scenes were shot at Ealing studios.

The film closed the 2009 London Film Festival and was Bafta nominated last month. Keswick’s large and enthusiastic audience clearly enjoyed the experience which only hardened souls would have failed to have been moved by, and voted it amongst the most popular of the spring season.

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19th Keswick Film Festival

22nd-25th February 2018


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