Nowhere Boy


Nowhere Boy

Critics Consensus

Don't expect any musical insights, but this look at John Lennon's early life benefits from its restrained, low-key approach and some fine acting from Aaron Johnson.



Total Count: 147


Audience Score

User Ratings: 41,223
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Movie Info

John Lennon's childhood. Liverpool 1955: a smart and troubled 15-year-old is hungry for experience. In a family full of secrets, two incredible women clash over John: Mimi, the buttoned-up aunt who raised him, and Julia, the prodigal mother. Yearning for a normal family, John escapes into the new and exciting world of rock 'n' roll where his fledgling genius finds a kindred spirit in the teenage Paul McCartney. Just as John begins his new life, tragedy strikes. But, a resilient young man finds his voice -- and an icon explodes into the world.


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Critic Reviews for Nowhere Boy

All Critics (147) | Top Critics (35) | Fresh (117) | Rotten (30)

  • Taylor-Wood has specialized in video installations and off-kilter portraits, and it was tempting to hope that her take on Lennon would unsettle and provoke. Instead, she stays resolutely on-kilter, as if awed into numbness by her subject.

    Oct 19, 2010 | Full Review…
  • The events chronicled are all longstanding Beatles legends, though director Sam Taylor-Wood manages to stage even the most portentous moments without making you feel a celestial choir is in order.

    Oct 15, 2010 | Full Review…
  • More love triangle than musical, the effective and often sweet Nowhere Boy offers a sense of the time and tension that produced John Lennon.

    Oct 15, 2010 | Rating: B | Full Review…

    Tom Long

    Detroit News
    Top Critic
  • This portrait of a Beatle as a young man also gives filmmaker Sam Taylor-Wood, working on a thoughtful script by Matt Greenhalgh, creative room to manoeuvre, introducing us to John just as he and rock 'n' roll discover one another.

    Oct 15, 2010 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • Nowhere Boy is a poignant reminder that before the world was at his command, John Lennon was a bit like you and me.

    Oct 15, 2010 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Although he doesn't look much like Lennon, Johnson captures that essence perfectly; the future icon is here a confused, hurt boy.

    Oct 15, 2010 | Rating: 4.5/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Nowhere Boy

  • Oct 14, 2013
    I find this picture compellingly beautiful not only because it tells the coming-of-age story of the musician I truly adore but because it really is. Neat screenplay and direction. Great acting from the cast. Aaron Johnson's portrayal of Lennon was brilliant. I also loved the cinematography. Nowhere Boy is a poignant and powerful film.
    Maymay A Super Reviewer
  • Jun 26, 2013
    "He's a real nowhere boy, sitting in his nowhere land...oy, making all his nowhere... plansoy for nobody." Okay, maybe this film's title doesn't work especially well in rhyme schemes, but it sure is clever, though I was hoping that they would call this film something like "The Beatgenning", but only because I wanted a chance to say, "Well, at least it's not as cheesy as the Beatles' early songs" and wait to see how people reacted. Hey, the title would fit for Aaron Johnson, seeing as how this film was the beginning of his breaking out, as well as the end to the segment of his career that was built around him being in the most British films imaginable, and a booming one at that, because it doesn't get too much more British than playing John Lennon, nor does it get too much more American than Johnson's next project, which was so Americantastically vulgar ("All you need is love" my foot, Brits) that I can't even say its title for the sake of the innocent readers who ironically have no problem looking into a film that says things that are a whole lot worse than the word in said title. I've always found people censoring themselves when reminding people of something vulgar to be hilariously ironic, but the point is that before Johnson was kicking, he was beating, though either way he was a "working class hero". Man, Johnson is so well-cast for this that he ended up with the director, who played Yoko Ono in that one famous portrait that was so lazily titled that it just went with the date: "26 October 1939"-I mean, "1993". Hey, Johnson certainly has Lennon's unconventional taste for the ladies (Oh yes, because it's so uncommon for men to be intensely attracted towards Asians for some strange reason), but hey, Johnson's much older bride proves that something good came from this production outside of evidence of Kristin Scott Thomas' still being alive and, of course, a decent film. However, the film itself isn't quite as good as it could have been, being a reasonably worthy user of your time, but one that has its share of shortcomings. As I jokingly stated earlier, this film is so British that it's about a young John Lennon, and as a super British film, this effort wouldn't be complete without dry spells, of which there are admittedly not nearly as many as I feared, which isn't to say that they aren't still here, for although the film is generally entertaining, there are bland moments - maybe even the occasional dull moment - to supplement slow-downs that don't necessarily need to be backed by a bland atmosphere to stand. At just shy of 100 minutes, this film doesn't have a whole lot of time to drag its feet, yet it still manages to make that time, incorporating so much aimless filler that, before too long, it begins to drive the narrative, thinning it out, eventually into all-out repetition. After a while, you begin to get a sense of direction and focus within this film's storytelling, but the journey to that point is much longer than it should be, and even when you get there, things get a bit fatty around the edges, thus making for a film that has too much fat around the edges, yet still retains a relatively short length that it often tightens up to in a way that is about as questionable as the bloating. Hey, we're just talking about John Lennon growing up and starting the band that we've all come to know and love, so it's not like there's a whole lot that is juicy about this story concept, but when you get deeper into this tale, there is some depth and potential for intrigue that are sadly kind of underexplored, being occasionally played up to give a glimpse at what could have been, but all too often disregarded for the sake of the filler and desperate struggle to retain an endearing charm whose reinforcement doesn't really do anything but draw your attention towards the thinness of this plot. Like I said, there is some meat on this story's bones, - underexplored though it may be - but only so much, because while it is rather compelling seeing John Lennon come of age as he rekindles, mends and even discovers relationships that will change him into the man we've come to know and respect him as, this minimalist drama doesn't have much else going for it, and that makes what storytelling flaws there are all the more glaring. What is done right is done so well that the film almost rewards, but ultimately falls short of its full potential, held back by natural shortcomings that are too overemphasized by pacing, focus and expository problems for underwhelmingness to go the way of Jojo and "get back". Of course, it's not like the film goes the way of John Lennon and gets sho-I mean, goes nowhere, meandering along too much to make it rewarding, but coming close on the shoulders of certain rewarding aspects, as well as visually appealing ones. Seamus McGarvey is an exceptional cinematographer, yet one who has a tendency to step back with his creative mind and leave things to look simply average, and sure enough, this film is no stunner, but when McGarvey really plays up his sharp taste for crisp definition, lush coloring and striking lighting, the film looks gorgeous, with a lively glow that embodies the effort's tone, while polishing up the look of the production value that embodies this film's era in a way that's too subtle to be at all upstanding, but remains convincing. Just as complimentary to the capturing of this late 1950s, early rock 'n' roll era is, of course, the soundtrack, which isn't played up too much, and never turns in especially strong or delightfully new tunes (Jeez, I'm sorry to cramp your style, wild children, but how many more coming-of-age films set between the late '50s and early '60s are we going to get with Jerry Lee Lewis' version of "Wild One"?), but still features plenty of entertaining classics that breathe some additional life into both entertainment value and the capturing of a sense of the spirit of the time. As a heartfelt tribute to the rock 'n' roll world of a spirited young man's interpretation of the late 1950s, the film is nothing short of a considerable success, whose cleverly subtle touches go a long way in transporting to this time with an immersive inspiration that I wish I could say is applied to more than just setting establishment, yet can be found in glimpses within the telling of a story that deserves to be well-told. There's only so much meat to play up within this story of John Lennon's coming of age, but there's certainly a lot of heart, from which heights in dramatic punch can indeed be found, so while this story concept isn't so strong that it would be difficult to shake thorough compellingness, there is plenty of potential, quite a bit of which is pretty well-explored by Matt Greenhalgh, whose script carries a charming wit that director and then-future Mrs. Aaron Johnson (No, as in his wife, not his mom), Sam Taylor-Wood, captures with a generally lively atmosphere whose more potent spots are bound to move. As a drama, when the film picks up as a heartfelt study upon the layered prelude to Lennon's maturity as both a musical legend and person, it's very compelling, and while those moments are limited in their quantity, they cannot be taken away from the final product, whose liveliness is enough to keep up firm decency, at when anchored by the performances. With the occasional dramatic heights come extensive acting material, so, on the whole, there's not much that's outstanding about the acting, but most every one delivers to one degree or another, with Anne-Marie Duff, or as I prefer to call her, - because of the catchiness - Anne-Marie McAvoy (Man, there are quite a few cougars involved in this film), capturing the spirited, yet somewhat layered depths of an overly lenient and secretly guilty mother reunited with her long-lost son, as surely as Kristin Scott Thomas convinces as John Lennon's stern and disapproving, but understandably concerned aunt guardian, while leading man Aaron Johnson carries the final product, transforming into Lennon with charm, subtle dramatic range and layers that capture sometimes profound human depths through all of the rebellion and ambition that defines Lennon's youth. If there are compelling moments in this film, then Johnson is typically their driving force, having revelatory moments that aren't abundant enough to make a great performance, but certainly go into making a worthy lead for this film, which could have hit harder, - as reflected by the heights' hitting pretty hard - but has enough endearing heart, entertainment value and range to keep you going. When the trail to nowhere has been passed, the final product's full potential goes left behind, while bland spots, repetitiously bloated storytelling with limited focus, and dramatic underexploration that emphasizes natural shortcomings ignite an underwhelmingness that is still challenged enough by a look that is both handsome - thanks in part to Seamus McGarvey's cinematography - and joins a colorful soundtrack in capturing the setting, while the heart of an interesting story concept is brought to life enough by clever writing, liveliness within a directorial performance that tosses in the occasional emotionally resonant moment, and strong acting - particularly by leading man Aaron Johnson - to make "Nowhere Boy" a charming and sometimes moving study on the late, great John Lennon's deeply layered coming of age. 2.75/5 - Decent
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • May 20, 2013
    Young John Lennon is torn between his mercurial biological mother and his stuffy aunt. The only thing I learned from this film is that John Lennon was once a real prick. The movie goes to great lengths to convince us that his upbringing produced his frustration, but Lennon's reactions to his troubled circumstances seem over-the-top, and we're not given many reasons to find him interesting. The plot languishes in exposition, and the final reveals about Julia's history don't surprise any discerning audience. Kristin Scott Thomas can do anything, and she gives a fantastic performance, but Aaron Johnson plays youthful angst with all the brattiness of a misbehaving kid at Wal Mart. I suppose that a more traditional biopic, with an older Lennon reminiscing on the travails of his life, might have been more compelling, and perhaps Beatles fans fill in this "front-story," but I judge a film based more on what is on the screen rather than context. Overall, there is nothing new about this story for most people, but perhaps a cadre of Beatles fans will find Lennon's history interesting.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Mar 31, 2012
    Good performance by Aaron Johnson - capturing the Lennon spirit without really looking like him at all - and, (of course), a great one from Kristin Scott Thomas, but otherwise, the film's rather dull. It's almost too thorough, and it comes out more precious and hero-worshipping than it does hard-hitting. Lennon's boyhood doesn't seem so tough, frankly, and unlike a lot of great musician biopics, we don't see the life channel into the music; we come to understand more about the man, but not much more about his art. The result? A fairly boring letdown.
    Daniel P Super Reviewer

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