Making All His Nowhere Plans for Everybody [Nowhere Boy]
A built-in challenge inhabits films about famous people. “Nowhere Boy” nips the challenge by focusing the story on John Lennon before he became a Beatle.
“The Beatles” are never mentioned. We are, however, treated to the formation and development of “The Quarrymen,” which fairly quickly came to include Paul McCartney, then George Harrison. Astutely, none of the casting gets caught in much of a look-alike distraction.
The testiness of Aaron Johnson playing Lennon hints at the John Lennon we think we know. The boyish charm of Thomas Sangster playing McCartney makes you want a whole other movie with him as the central character study. The cementing of the bond between them is a highlight of the film. It can only add to what we feel about one of the most accomplished songwriting partnerships ever.
The depth of the storytelling depends on a curious triangle. John's Aunt Mimi raised him, for the most part. Straight laced and coldly protective, she was his enduring foundation. John's mom, Julia, touched his life as much by her absence as her presence. She was his muse. (How often do songwriters have their mother, at least partially, in mind when they write love songs? How often did John?) The absence of his father and the influence of his uncle establish more of the emotional juices that run through John's psyche.
Kristin Scott Thomas as Mimi and Anne-Marie Duff as Julia anchor the fine casting and acting. “Nowhere Boy” seems to stay true to the facts of John's upbringing. Whether you are familiar with the early years or not, the film gives us a dramatic tangle that makes you care about John and hope he works his life out.
It's a wonder that John Lennon became the resilient icon he did. Part of the unlikelihood is that he was as much an unruly wise guy as he was a driven dreamer. His mark on music and culture is indelible, even if he came from nowhere.