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Laramie Movie Scope:
Nowhere Boy

John Lennon explores his roots

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 7, 2010 -- I suppose if you are very well-versed on the Beatles or on John Lennon, you already are familiar with the basic story in this movie, but it was new to me. I thought I had seen, heard or read just about everything about the Beatles. There have been something like 50 films in which John Lennon appears, either as himself, or portrayed by an actor. It turns out there is still new ground being covered. This film has to do with Lennon's relationship with his estranged mother, Julia (played by Anne-Marie Duff of “The Virgin Queen”) and his aunt, who raised him, Mimi Smith (played by Kristen Scott Thomas of “I've Loved You So Long”). Lennon is played by Aaron Johnson of “The Illusionist.”

It seems as though Lennon was kept away from his real mother until his later teen years, when he suddenly discovers she has been living nearby all the time. He goes to visit her and is immediately attracted to her, with some obvious Oedipal sexual overtones. His mother, Julia is the exact opposite of Mimi, his aunt. Mimi is strict, straight-laced, dour and she hides her emotions from others. Julia is uninhibited, affectionate and care free. She is also promiscuous and not very responsible. Julia makes up for lost time with her son and even takes him in. She also kindles his love of music and teaches him to play the banjo. For a time, John Lennon has trouble deciding who to stay with, the mercurial, flighty Julia, or the dependable, if emotionally distant, Mimi.

Things come to a head when John, Mimi and Julia have it out and all the family's dirty laundry is aired at last. John finds out why he was raised by Mimi and not Julia. John is forced to grow up in a hurry. Tellingly, he helps heal the rift in the family. The ending of the film is bitter-sweet. There is at least one shocking development. The film also shows the early formation of the band that would become the Beatles, and the initial meetings of Lennon, Paul McCartney (played by Thomas Brodie Sangster of “Love Actually”) and George Harrison (played by Sam Bell). There is quite a bit of music in the film as Lennon is exposed to American music and he learns to play the banjo, guitar and harmonica. Early concerts and a recording session are shown. Mostly, however, this is a drama. There is also some graphic sexual content in the film as well involving Lennon and a school girl, Marie (Ophelia Lovibond).

I don't know how accurate this story is, but Julia Baird, Lennon's half-sister is listed in the film's credits as providing source material from her memoir. This is a heavily melodramatic story with a few Beatles trivia tidbits thrown in. It is one of those stories about tragedy and sorrow being the wellspring of creativity. While it is a downer, it is also interesting and there is enough music in it to at least whet the appetite, if not satisfy one's Beatle music craving. The acting is well done in the film by all the main actors, and by the supporting actors as well. By the way, the name Beatle is never uttered in the film and Ringo Starr is never mentioned either. Maybe someday Ringo will get his due in a Beatles film. Maybe the reason he hasn't so far is that he is just too normal a guy. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2010 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)