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Nowhere Boy

May 18, 2014

Nowhere Boy (2009)
Director: Sam Taylor-Wood
Actors: Aaron Johnson, Anne-Marie Duff, Kristin Scott Thomas

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Synopsis: A teenage John Lennon (Aaron Johnson) is brought up by his austere aunt, Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas), until curiosity makes him seek out his young mother (Anne-Marie Duff) – Mimi’s sister – who abandoned him at a young age, and to his surprise, he discovers she lives just round the corner from him in Liverpool…

Review: There’s no question that beneath its earnest, artsy trappings, Nowhere Boy is actually a very calculating, mainstream film that capitalises knowingly on the goodwill and mythology of its Beatles backstory and subject matter. In some respects, it gives the film the whiff of biopic-lite, and, much like with other famous music origin pictures Ray and Walk the Line, there’s a director/audience parlour-game going on where Sam Taylor-Wood is spoon-feeding us fleeting, ironic moments that augur the famous musician that was to come.

Away from these more determined brushstrokes, Taylor-Wood does unquestionably find a sweet, poignant tone for her story. This is clearly helped by the emotional content of the scenario (Anne-Marie Duff in particular gives a very moving performance as the vulnerable mother re-bonding with Lennon), but also Taylor-Wood’s very ‘visual artist’ appropriation of the medium lends the film some impetus. There’s a particularly effective timelapse montage that shows Lennon’s growing confidence with the guitar while under his mother’s tutelage, all framed by the ever-changing gaudy furnishings of her house, and the crazy, motley array of children she has living with her at any one time. It’s in this more original, organic merging between the technique and content of the piece, that Taylor-Wood finds a more interesting way to hint at the sentiment of Lennon’s tortured maternal wranglings. (May 2014)

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