Nowhere Boy Reviews
We don't really get any understanding of who John Lennon is or what the basis of his relationship with his uncle George Smith is before the man dies. No character building has happened by this point, so the film immediately begins to feel rushed before it makes it past the 6 minute mark. And then in the blink of an eye, the tone shifts to an overly optimistic one where we see John Lennon building a relationship with his mother Mimi Lennon over a montage of carnival activities with an overly optimistic tone. Nowhere Boy fails to get itself off to a solid start, but it establishes itself once it actively figures out who John Lennon is.
The film slows down after a while and begins to focus on John Lennon discovering his love of rock n'roll and the influence of Elvis Presley. As this happens, we begin to see the real side of John Lennon beneath his public image as a member of The Beatles. In actual fact, director Sam Taylor-Wood remains so focused on embroiling the story in its characters that it becomes a powerful portrait of an individual. I went into Nowhere Boy expecting a story about The Beatles, but I ended up experiencing a powerful biopic about a boy I never knew. Nowhere Boys plays over a period of five early years in the life of John Lennon and chronicles his time around the beginning of the formation of The Beatles, telling a story I never could have imagined and one that I vastly enjoyed.
Nowhere Boy has a very small-scaled story and plays out at a slow pace which may irritate some viewers just as the heavy focus on sentimentality may deter others, but all contributes to telling an emotionally rich story. Nowhere Boy is a film which rests its focus among the characters and the complicated relationships they all get twisted up in. There's a powerful tale of the conflicting influences in the life of John Lennon with his adoptive aunt prioritizing etiquette and proper conduct while his mother supports free spirit and artistic expression. These all contribute to building a strong backstory to John Lennon, exploring the heart of a musician who had an Elvis Presley-influenced love of rock but a strong sophistication at the same time. Sam Taylor-Wood captures the heart of the material with a restrained direction which lets the cast naturally work their magic. Her film is a very low-key one which remains focused on character development above all else, and while she lets this develop naturally she keeps the setting of the story convincing with beautiful scenery and nostalgic production design.
But given the restrained nature of the direction in Nowhere Boy, the cast are the ones responsible for really making it shine. And it's hard to deny that audiences will walk away from Nowhere Boy having experienced the talents of a truly brilliant cast.
Aaron Taylor delivers one of the best performances of his career in Nowhere Boy. In the breakthrough role which propelled him to stardom, Aaron Taylor steps into the shoes of one of music's most iconic historical figures and delivers some fine justice to the role. He perfectly captures the iconic voice of the music legend and the angry spirit that saw him grow from a boy into a man, and as we see him become more in touch with artistic side over the course of the film we see Aaron Taylor grow more passionate about the character. Aaron Taylor's charm wins audiences over just as his dramatic charisma catches them off guard, and so even at his most subtle he is an engaging presence. Aaron Taylor takes audiences on John Lennon's journey to becoming The Beatle he would be forever immortalized as and graces us all with a strong exploration of his many emotional struggles along the way. And the pinnacle of his talent is emphasized in the film's climactic scenes when he finally lets his emotions completely loose with the full extent of his intensity on display. Nowhere Boy proves to be the perfect front for Aaron Taylor's remarkable charisma, and he pays a great tribute to John Lennon with the brilliance of his performance.
Anne-Marie Duff also delivers an unforgettable effort. With the beauty and loving charm of Susan Sarandon, Anne-Marie Duff easily wins the love of audiences over. Though she is an elusive figure until the climactic confrontation toward the end of the film, Anne-Marie Duff consistently contributes a caring and supportive attitude towards Aaron Taylor which contrasts to the more emotionally distant nature of Kristin Scott Thomas. She has a very free-spirited nature to her which gives the film a light atmosphere and an enjoyable energy. Anne-Marie Duff perfectly captures an appropriate motherly spirit in her interactions with Aaron Taylor and keeps the story full of positive vibes.
Kristin Scott Thomas is also a powerful presence. She is very direct with her character approach, being strict with Aaron Johnson and ensuring that the important element of class remains in the story. She maintains a very strong will which borders upon cold at times yet always maintains a caring element as to emphasize the intense nature of the relationship shared between John Lennon and Mimi Smith. There is a very meticulous relationship between the two, but both Kristin Scott Thomas and Aaron Taylor work with each other on a very professional level which ensures there are plenty of powerful interactions between them. Kristin Scott Thomas brings an understated yet rich presence to Nowhere Boy and just adds further credibility to the perfection in casting.
Thomas Brodie-Sangster also makes a memorable albeit brief presence as Paul McCartney, sharing some memorable scenes with Aaron Johnson and using the chance to show off his own natural charisma.
Nowhere Boy may be a slow burning and heavily sentimental film, but with Sam Taylor-Wood's rich exploration of characters and a perfect array of performances from a distinguished cast, it ends up being a powerful insight into the early days of the man behind The Beatles.