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nowhere boy, biographical film, biography, review, biopic

Nowhere Boy (2009) 

“Mother, you had me, but I never had you”. John Lennon’s plaintive song about childhood abandonment fittingly closes this biopic of the musician’s early years. Sensitively depicting Lennon’s struggle as he bounces between the mother who gave birth to him and the mother who raised him, Nowhere Boy intuitively captures teen anguish amplified by a feeling of not fitting in. Fortunately, Lennon is able to find some sense of belonging in a skiffle band he forms with his friends.

Within a precious few minutes of screen time, David Threlfall endears himself as Uncle George before promptly dropping dead. Left alone with the dour Aunt Mimi, John renews his relationship with her sister Julia, who happens to be his birth mother. The polar opposite to Mimi, Julia is bursting with energy, impulsively spending a day at Blackpool with John where her flirty behaviour verges on being inappropriate. As kids often do, John starts to play one parent off the other till matters come to a head on his birthday.

There are no villains in this piece, just a family trying to make the best of the situation they find themselves in. Though Mimi may appear cold and unloving it is clear she has Lennon’s best interests at heart, whereas Julia’s vivaciousness comes with its own set of drawbacks. Though some visual references and verbal byplay may point to future Beatles’ songs, it is the sincere dramatization of this rather slight tale that provides signposts to one of rock and roll’s most interesting figures.

The timeline of Nowhere Boy precludes its soundtrack from featuring any of the Beatles’ hits. There is however, a rendition of John Lennon’s ‘Hello Little Girl’ and a faithful recreation of The Quarrymen recording Paul McCartney’s ‘In Spite of All the Danger’.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Lennon, Aaron Johnson, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Thomas Brodie Sangster
fact check, fact vs fiction, Paul McCartney. sam bell, george harrison

Paul McCartney has stated that John Lennon never punched him.

“The thing is, I haven’t actually seen it, but I hear I’m OK in it. But you know what I’m slightly peeved about? My character, my actor, is shorter than John! And I don’t like that! I’m the same size as John, please. Put John in a trench! Or put me in platforms!”

Paul McCartney

Biopic depicts an oft-told version of John’s separation from his father. However, a friend of Lennon's father recalled the event differently in Mark Lewisohn’s book ‘The Beatles - All These Years: Volume One: Tune In’ - 

[John’s parents] needed privacy, so we let them go into the front room… which my mother kept spotless. They talked maybe half an hour and then [Freddie] came out and said, “I’m letting Johnny go back with his mother – she’s going to look after him properly”… I really can’t remember if Johnny was in there too… but there was definitely no tug-of-love scene.

Billy Hall

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