Nowhere Boy 15 (2009)
Dir: Sam Taylor Wood; Starring: Aaron Johnson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Anne-Marie Duff, Thomas Sangster…
I am suspicious of people who don’t like The Beatles, almost to the same extent that I am suspicious of people who don’t drink tea – I mean, what’s wrong with you? Arguments about ‘Britishness’ aside, these two things are fundamental to the national psyche, up there with ‘fish and chips’ being repeatedly endlessly in your face whenever you head to foreign climes. Although I could live without The Beatles (not so the elixir of life), there is no denying they were, and still are, phenomenal, and without them popular music as we know it today could not exist, not altogether a positive as we could all do without enduring the endless stream of pretty boy bands and the subsequent teenage mania.
But Nowhere Boy is not a film about The Beatles, per se; it isn’t even a film about the iconic figure that is John Lennon, the Boy in question. It’s Sam Taylor Wood’s take on Lennon’s formative years, the boy behind the man behind the music, setting the scene for the greatness that eventually emerged with a warts and all exploration of the family dysfunction and cocky bravado.
The film doesn’t always work. The opening scene is accompanied by the opening chord of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, and from there on in there is no direct mention of the B word, which is kind of smart. But, it is the first not-so-subtle hint of that we already know what’s coming, we already know Lennon. We know when he met Paul (that irritating kid from Nanny McPhee who plays up McCartney’s ‘baby-face’ side something rotten), and countless other ‘Beatles’ moments (well, I suppose not everyone does but even then you can guess what’s coming). As a consequence, these events become things to be ticked off, devoid of thrills.
It’s always fun to see the Sixties evoked well on the big screen (especially the sweet, sweet frocks), but it’s nothing that hasn’t been seen before and on the ‘kitchen-sink’ drama front it’s more Eastenders than Loach. Scott-Thomas as Lennon’s uptight aunt/guardian and Duff as his troubled, overtly sexual mother play their parts with feeling and Johnson gets Lennon’s swagger and frustration at his situation right, but somehow it just doesn’t add up. Rather than adding something to the whole Beatles mythology, the whole thing just feels a bit empty.