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Phil Mellows is a freelance journalist living in Brighton


 Nowhere Boy


Director Sam Taylor-Wood (2009)

Unless Ringo is holding something back from us, John Lennon is undoubtedly the most interesting Beatle, a prime subject for a biopic. Nowhere Boy isnít quite that biopic.

Sam Taylor-Wood takes just a narrow slice of the life, Lennonís teenage scally years, when he discovered music and founded the band that would become The Beatles. Yet this history-making moment is overshadowed by the story of two women and two great performances.

Kristen Scott plays Mimi, who unofficially adopted the five-year-old Lennon when her sister Julia, an equally good Anne-Marie Duff, couldnít cope.

Young John (Aaron Johnson) is torn between the two: a secure, stable and slightly oppressive aspiring middle class homelife with Mimi, and a bohemian chaos with the wayward and talented Julia, truly her sonís mother.

Could this unusual upbringing be the founding trauma of Lennonís genius? I donít think so. It must be confusing to have two mums, but John doesnít have it so bad, really. He always seems to be able to get hold of a guitar when he needs one, at any rate.

Apart from ten minutes of tragedy and heightened drama towards the end which fairly jumps off the screen, Nowhere Boy is quiet, muted, comfortable picture, a charming evocation of a nearly normal life in Liverpool in the late 1950s.

When, a few years after Lennon, McCartney and Harrison depart for Hamburg in the final scene, the Beatles explode onto the world, all that Nowhere Boy tells us is that they came out of the ordinary.


January 4, 2010

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