Nowhere Boy – The Movie

I just came back from a press screening of the new John Lennon biopic “Nowhere Boy”. The film is part of the “Gimle Filmfest” an annual event at Gimle Cinema here in Oslo, where it will be shown to the norwegian public for the first time on February 11th. The film will then go to general release on February 22nd.

Previous blog posts of mine about the movie:

The film covers John Lennon’s late teens from just before his uncle George died (5th June 1955) and until The Fabs are about to go to Hamburg (mid-August 1960). Lennon goes from age 15 to nearly 20 in the course of the film, which is hardly noticable. Through a few retrospective moments we are also taken back to Blackpool when Lennon, aged five, was challenged to choose between going to New Zealand with his father Alfred Lennon or to stay in Liverpool with his mother Julia.
“Nowhere Boy” is based on the book Imagine This: Growing Up with My Brother John Lennon by his half sister, Julia Baird. She later estranged herself from the film after it deviated too much from the real story.

Although the movie is coloured with music throughout, the movie is not so much about Lennon’s music careeer with the Quarrymen – but more about the internal secrets that surrounded him and his family in his personal teenage life. The movie concentrates on the first three years of this time frame, when lots of stuff happens to Lennon. He loses his uncle, gets reconciliated with his mother, befriends Paul McCartney and George Harrison, loses his mother and starts composing songs.
My conclusion about this film is that I’ve probably read too much and heard too many interviews about this time to really appreciate it.

Although possibly a brilliant actor, Aaron Johnson is a difficult John Lennon to accept. His hair is too black, his eyes have the wrong colour, he’s got too much muscle and is a bit too bossy. Paul McCartney, played by Thomas Sangster isn’t too off the mark, although his famous eyebrows couldn’t be matched. Still, he’s smaller than Lennon in the film, when in reality he was the tallest Beatle. I felt that the two main female characters, John’s mother Julia Lennon (played by Anne-Marie Duff) and her sister Mimi Smith (Kristin Scott Thomas), the aunt who brought up young John were the strongest portrayals.

John (Aaron Johnson) and Paul (Thomas Sangster) at Paul’s home.

I could name a number of discrepancies that ruined the experience of the movie to me, like John’s sisters Jacqui and Julia being present in their mother’s funeral, when in reality they were sent away and weren’t even told that their mother had died until a long time after the fact. This is a key element in Julia’s book, and one of the reasons she harbours such harsh feelings about this time in her young life and how her family behaved. Also, the weather in Liverpool in the fifties looks very nice, looking back.

The Quarrymen, standing in a circle around newcomer Paul McCartney on July 6th, 1957, totally in awe of his guitar playing skills seems to have been inspired by Eric Cash’s painting from last year, “The Introduction“. In reality, most of the original Quarrymen members can’t even recall McCartney having been there.

But my main objection about the movie is that John Lennon is exposed to all the inner secrets of Julia and Mimi. The truth laid bare. In reality, I think he was kept in the dark all his life.

But go see the movie, you’ll enjoy a look at post-war Liverpool and some good old music from rock’s early years. And if you enjoy the story and the acting, all the better. One of the scenes I particularly enjoyed was when the Quarrymen were in the studio, recording “In Spite of All The Danger”.

And get the soundtrack, it’s a fun ride!

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