I’m always a bit nervous when sitting down to watch a movie about a famous person’s life.  There’s always a chance that it’ll end up trying to make it just on the fact of having a famous person portrayed in it.  However, this is not the case for Nowhere Boy, the story of a young John Lennon.  That’s important, because it is not a story about The Beatles, or even about the early formation of the band.  Sure, it has Paul McCartney in it for most of the second half (and he’s a pretty nice contrast to Lennon, much like their music balances each other out) and George Harrison is there for a few minutes, but at its heart the movie is about Lennon.  Before I go on I have to say I was amazed how similar the actors – Aaron Johnson (Lennon), Thomas Brodie Sangster (McCartney), and even the members of Lennon’s first band The Quarrymen– looked to the people they were meant to represent.

The days when dressing like a hipster was mainstream

Going into the movie knowing nothing of Lennon’s early life (aside from his first band and some other music related information) I was surprised to see his family life.  Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas) is possibly the best aunt in any movie and amongst the best parent figures I’ve ever watched on screen.  She makes you understand her being bitter and abrupt because when the smoke clears she always comes through and shows her caring side.  By the end of the movie, and by end I mean very end, I really did feel for her.  Though, I can’t say as much about Lennon’s mother.

I won’t give anything away for those who aren’t aware of Lennon’s early life, but I think a quote by his mother, Julia will help fill you in on what type of girl she was in her younger days:

“Do you know what it means, rock ‘n’ roll?  Sex.”

Needless to say, she was what I would politely refer to as promiscuous.  Then somewhere along the line she seems to have gone a little kooky and her relation with her son ends up being awkward to watch.  Still, it is an interesting relation, but one that is never fully addressed.

The movie has a problem of getting caught up in being too artsy at times, making some sequences make you wonder why they’re there.  Particularly, there are donkeys in Lennon’s dreams/flashback sequences that seem to serve no purpose other than being artistic or something (kind of like but not as annoying as the lizards in Nic Cage’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans).  Luckily there are very few of these types of scenes, but there is another problem.  At times the pacing feels awkward and forced.  It’s obvious there were a lot of ideas and important moments they had to work with, but some of them either just pop up or there are sporadic mood swings by characters just to continue the plot.  Yes, this may seem like a big complaint, but as a whole, these moments don’t take away from the drama and emotional connection between the viewer, Aunt Mimi, and Lennon.

Is this a perfect movie?  Well no.  Is it an emotionally involving movie that makes you forget it’s a John Lennon movie?  Yes, and I like that.  I didn’t want to sit there and watch him go collect band mates, fly over to America, be famous, and all that stuff.  Seeing the drama made it more personal, and because of that made it more accessible to those who are not big fans of The Beatles (such as myself).  At the very least, you will definitely come away from the movie with a greater appreciation for Aunt Mimi’s influence on Lennon’s life.

As a side note, this movie definitely has the most amount of smoking I’ve seen in any recent movie, it’s like an inside joke or something amongst the cast, as I don’t think there’s a solid minute of screen time without someone smoking.