Nowhere Boy
dir Sam Taylor-Wood
scr Matt Greenhalgh
prd Robert Bernstein, Kevin Loader, Douglas Rae
with Aaron Johnson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Anne-Marie Duff, David Morrissey, Thomas Brodie Sangster, David Threlfall, Josh Bolt, Sam Bell, Ophelia Lovibond, Andrew Buchan, Jack McElhone, John Collins
release UK 26.Dec.09, US 8.Oct.10
09/UK Icon 1h35
Nowhere Boy
Elvis wannabe: Johnson

scott thomas duff morrissey
Closing Film:
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Nowhere Boy This beautifully written and directed biopic has a strong ring of truth to it, mainly due to Taylor-Wood's artistic approach to filmmaking. It also features extremely complex characters and a remarkably vivid collection of events.

In 1955 Liverpool, John Lennon (Johnson) is a troubled 15-year-old, raised by his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George (Scott Thomas and Threlfall) without knowing that his wayward mother Julia (Duff) lives just around the corner. But everything's going to change, and while he tries to balance these parental relationships he's also discovering rock 'n' roll. He teams with his pal Pete (Bolt) to form a skiffle band called The Quarrymen. And interest in the band heats up when talented musicians Paul and George (Sangster and Bell) join them.

Screenwriter Greenhalgh (CONTROL) tells this in a straightforward way that feels extremely fresh due to offbeat relationships that continually challenge us as viewers because they're not what we're used to seeing on screen. Essentially this is the story of a bright, observant boy juggling two mothers: Duff is a blast of wild energy as the lively Julia, while Scott Thomas has the more thankless role as the pinched-but-caring Mimi. While both characters feel like movie cliches, both actresses have plenty of surprises up their sleeves.

Meanwhile, Johnson lives up to his earlier promise (see DUMMY and ANGUS, THONGS), looking and moving eerily like the young Lennon while also creating a believable teen trying to hold on to some very big dreams against all odds. And the film certainly never lionises him. Sangster's McCartney, while less physically reminiscent, is a thoroughly believable teen as well. And their early rivalry and camaraderie is complex and fascinating to watch.

As Steve McQueen did last year with HUNGER, artist-turned-filmmaker Taylor-Wood finds new cinematic vocabulary, capturing scenes with lively energy and raw beauty while never shying away from the dark side of things. There are moments of real emotional intensity along the way, a lot of raucous youthful energy and one of the most realistic teen sexual encounters ever put on film. And she finds ways to convey resonant themes about respecting yourself and others without ever being pushy about it. She's definitely a filmmaker to watch.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, violence 29.Oct.09 lff

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall