At age 15, John Lennon admitted, “I want to be like Elvis.” His half-sister, Julia Baird, is the co-author of the new film, “Nowhere Boy,” so the statement is most likely factual. The complexities of Lennon’s formative years are explored in this enlightening and insightful film, guaranteed to evoke some serious toe-tapping.
Raised in Liverpool, England (near Strawberry Fields), Lennon was an intelligent but rebellious teenager. He was raised by an aunt rather than his own mother and that created immense conflict in his life. When Lennon discovers that his mother lives just a few blocks away, the two reunite — much to his aunt’s dismay.
Although his Aunt Mimi (a superb Kristin Scott Thomas) comes off as an ice queen, she genuinely loves Lennon. On the other hand, his mother, Julia (the vivacious Anne-Marie Duff), displays bi-polar tendencies and treats Lennon with such adoration it borders on oedipal. Seeking normalcy, Lennon turns to rock ’n’ roll — the rest is history.
Director Sam Taylor-Wood’s character-driven film is laden with exceptional performances. Thomas (“The English Patient”) as the ever pursed-lipped Mimi, is over the top, as is Duff’s portrayal of the sad, sexy Julia. “Kick Ass” star Aaron Johnson doesn’t resemble Lennon at all, but he manages to lend credibility to the role.
The love and adversity that Lennon experienced early on in his life, so aptly depicted in “Nowhere Boy,” obviously gave rise to the sensitivity so deeply rooted in his beloved music. I’d venture to say that he would have made Elvis proud.