Sundance 2010 Review: NOWHERE BOY
Editor's Note: This review was originally published on January 22nd, 2010 at the Sundance Film Festival.
Writers: Julia Baird (memoir), Matt Greenhalgh (screenplay)
Director: Sam Taylor Wood
Cast: Aaron Johnson, Kristen Scott Thomas, Anne-Marie Duff
NOWHERE BOY is a well-told coming of age story that is based on certain teen years in the life of John Lennon, while also passing for a strong mini-biography film. It centers around young John's relationship with the stern aunt that mostly raised him and his estranged mother, who comes into his life again after not seeing him for several years.
The film takes an intriguing approach to Lennon's life, covering only a few years, instead of giving us a bio-pic that briefly covers many aspects and events in the life of John Lennon. NOWHERE BOY's premise helps keep the film from having the constricted feel that can often become attached to a biography film wider in scope, where you have a lot of ground to cover in a relatively small period, and ultimately speed through key sections. NOWHERE BOY is able to take its time and bang out the important details as it builds a compelling account of a specific period of John Lennon's life.
Two very important developments happen during the period focused on in John Lennon's life with NOWHERE BOY. The more pronounced is John dealing with his mother coming back into his life and the prickly details and emotions that come to surface as a result. At times these scenes come seen a tad over-the-top, but generally they come out moving.
John's love for music, and the early beginnings of what would become The Beatles, are also covered in the film. This, of course, is an interesting element to Lennon and comes off organically - an impressive feat, it is not constructed like you are watching something about John Lennon and this is the part where we are going to learn about the early days of his music career. The film unfolds much more naturally, with this part of his life being intertwined with everything else that is going on with John at the moment.
I suppose many are curious how Aaron Johnson, star of KICK-ASS (you have heard of it) did with his teen John Lennon. The answer? Pretty damn well. Johnson offers a tense, wounded, and charming Lennon, creating an interpretation of the man that is easy to buy. Is he absolutely true to the icon that he is playing? Probably not absolutely, but convincingly close enough.
NOWHERE BOY doesn't attempt to climb the tremendous cinematic mountain of making a John Lennon biography film that spans the rock legend's entire life. Instead, it creates a solid and satisfying film about a crucial time for John Lennon.