Thursday, March 24, 2011

Nowhere Boy

We first meet teenager John Lennon when he's in his early teens. It's quite obvious that he's a troublemaker around school, has no stomach for it, and whiles away the time looking at semi-porn magazines, hanging around with his mates smoking, and drawing doodles while the teacher talks.

Sam Taylor-Wood's Nowhere Boy is biographical in the sense that we know certain things about Lennon's life. His mother gave him up to her sister to raise when he was only 5. His uncle, to whom he was quite attached, died suddenly. He had a love-hate relationship with Aunt Mimi, who always stuck by him. And when John was in his later teens, he went to visit his mother, who reappeared into his life now and again until she was suddenly struck by a car and died.

But it's non-biographical in the sense that almost all dialogue is imagined, fictionalized, because we weren't there. And John isn't talking any more.

While the acting is very good, especially from award-winner Kristin Scott Thomas as the stoic Mimi, it's a slow movie, and those of us who hunger for more of a sense of how the Beatles got started won't get it here. But we do get a sense of how traumatic John's life was as he was growing up, how hard it was for him to find a stable anchor. While it would be easy to see how John went off the rail tracks many times as he aged, conclusions about such causes drawn from his childhood would be simplistic.

Still, it's a fascinating look at what became a driven, fascinating character determined to find his way in the arts.

Thumb's up.


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