Sunday, October 31, 2010

NOWHERE BOY (2010)

Written by Matt Greenhalgh


Directed by Sam Taylor-Wood


Where & When: Los Feliz 3,  Los Angeles, CA.  October 17, 2010 1:30PM


The Beatles are considered one of the greatest bands of the rock & roll era. John Lennon was a part of this group, contributing bass guitar and was one half of the core song-writing team for the band. His life was cut tragically short on December 8, 1980 and this year he would have turned seventy. The new film, "Nowhere Boy" explores the story of John Lennon's developing teenage years and his attempt to become a musician and start a band.

Aaron Johnson plays John, a smart but mischievous sixteen year old who is trying to figure out who he is and what he's going to do with his life. We first meet John, who is living with his Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott-Thomas) and Uncle George (David Threlfall) in Liverpool, England. He's not much interested in school but Mimi is constantly on him to get to education and wear his glasses. John relates better with his uncle because he is a fun-loving and gregarious guy while his aunt is more distant and strict.

After George passes away suddenly, John is left alone with just his Aunt Mimi. Although his aunt means well, she just doesn't do warm and fuzzy but that is exactly what John needs right now.

John discovers that his mother has been living not far from him all these years and decides to go and pay her a visit. The last time he saw her, he was a small boy but Julia (Anne-Marie Duff), who is Mimi's sister, is very happy to see him and welcomes her son with open arms. Julia, who now has a new husband and two young daughters, is a hot-blooded, free spirit who drops everything so they spend the day together. John soon sees how much he is like his mother, most especially in that they both share in the love of rock music. She introduces her son to Screamin' Jay Hawkins's, "I Put A Spell On You" and soon after that moment, he decides to become a musician.

John talks his aunt in to getting him a guitar, although she is highly skeptical of him making a living as a musician, and he forms a band called The Quarrymen made up of a bunch of school friends. After their second concert, John meets Paul McCartney (Thomas Brodie Sangster), a talented guitarist who was impressed with the band. John soon asks Paul to join the band and they begin working together writing songs.

John begins to have more trouble at home with his aunt, so he wants to move in with his mother. Julia agrees but it causes problems with her husband as well as her sister, who knows the reason why John has been living with her all these years. These estranged sisters both begin fighting over this boy they both love but neither wants to tell him about the past but John soon begins to wonder himself why his mother did not raise him, pressuring them to tell him. John does gets an explanation, which turns out to be a dark family secret that may be more than he really wanted to know.

Partially based on a biography by Lennon's half sister, Julia Baird, this is photographer and artist, Samantha "Sam" Taylor-Wood's feature film debut and she has shown great promise with her exceptional first film. She employs all of skills to create a vivid visual style in addition to inventive editing and a crackling energy which helps this drama rise well above a typical biopic.

Mr. Greenhalgh, who also wrote a great film I just recently saw, "Control", the 2007 biopic about Joy Division singer, Ian Curtis, has written a warm yet rollicking script that helps flesh out the little known story of these real life people as well a takes us to the time when rock is beginning to cause a major shift in our society with the soundtrack filled with the great music of those early pioneers.

Although he doesn't look much like Lennon and appears much older than sixteen, the handsome Mr. Johnson, who may be best known to American audiences from his appearance in this year's super-hero flick,"Kick Ass", perfectly conveys the spirit of the future Beatle. He believably takes John Lennon from an unfocused and unsure teenager to a confident and charismatic musician with precsion and ease.

Ms Scott-Thomas is always wonderful and she does British chilliness very well but the film's true revelation is the performance of Ms Duff. She is little known here state side but I do hope that changes after this film appearance. Her Julia is one part red-hot mama and the other a giddy child-woman but there is a darkness lurking underneath that can creep up on her unexpectedly. When Ms Duff is on the screen, you can't take your eyes off of her.

"Nowhere Boy" ends right when the band is preparing to head off to Hamburg, Germany where the Quarrymen would soon evolve in to the Beatles and Lennon's life, as well as the rest of the world would be changed forever.