The Beatles have been the subject for many motion pictures over the years. Aside from the five movies the band made themselves (A Hard Day’s Night, Help!, Magical Mystery Tour, Yellow Submarine, and Let It Be), there are some that are pretty good and there are others that are just flat out terrible. Nowhere Boy, a new biopic on the early life of John Lennon, can be considered one of the best Beatle-related movies made. Although it was released a year ago in the UK, this is the first time American audiences get to see when it was released on October 8 (one day before Lennon’s 70th birthday). While the topic of the Beatles’ rise to fame is a bit overused, Nowhere Boy does a good job.
The movie tells the story of John Lennon from the time he gets his first harmonica to when the Beatles go to Hamburg. Aaron Johnson is the actor who portrays Lennon in the movie. Audiences may remember Johnson as the lead role in the superhero-comedy movie Kick Ass earlier this year. Initially, Johnson doesn’t look like Lennon nor does he sound like him. After watching this movie, I can safely say that Johnson did a really good job. He does look like a young John in the movie and has a decent Lennon accent down. The only thing working against him is his blue eyes, when Lennon’s eyes were brown. A fun fact: Johnson and the director of the movie, Sam Taylor-Wood, are engaged (despite the 23 year difference). Everyone else in the movie does a good job. Anne-Marie Duff does a great job with her role of Julia Lennon, John’s ever-loving mother (who Lennon adored and would write songs such as “Julia” and “Mother” for her). Kristin Scott Thomas plays Mimi Smith, John’s strict but loving maternal aunt. Thomas pretty much nailed the role: Aunt Mimi was strict on Lennon during his teenage years but wanted the best for him. Thomas Brodie Sangster plays Paul McCartney. Although he’s a bit too short, he does a good job as well. Everyone in this movie did great, aside from a few negatives.
While Nowhere Boy is a strong movie, there are a few things that don’t seem right. For starters, the movie’s screenplay is based off of an autobiography written by John’s half sister, Julia Baird. What puzzles me is that Baird was just a child when all the events in the movie happened. How does she know that all this happened for sure? I’m sure her book was faithful enough to make into a movie. However, there are a few things the movie may’ve gotten historically wrong. In the beginning of the movie, John’s Uncle George gives him his first harmonica. I thought I heard that John got his first harmonica when he was ten. Also, there’s an error in the scene where Paul sees John perform at that festival. According to the movie, John and his band played “Maggie Mae” (no relation to the Rod Stewart hit at all. It’s a traditional song that the Beatles later covered on the Let It Be album. As seen in the movie, John’s mother teaches her son the song). In John’s last interview ever (hours before he was murdered), John says that he and his band were playing “Be-Bop-A-Lula” at that festival. In the scene where John’s mother killed after being hit by car, it’s in broad daylight. I always thought that it was at night, since that makes more sense. Still aside from these few possible errors, the movie is still great.
If you like the Beatles and/or John Lennon, you should check out Nowhere Boy. I personally think it’s a really good movie, aside from a few historical errors. To be honest, I don’t think there’s really anyone who can remember what happened back then or how it was supposed to be. Many books have been written on John Lennon. How do we know what exactly happened? In some way, Nowhere Boy is one of those “what may have happened” sort of movies and it’s a very good one (trust me. I’ve seen movies like that and most of them are not good). If you rather see something that’s more factual, I highly recommend you see the amazing 1995 mini-series The Beatles Anthology. It’s in eight parts so the DVD is pricey. You could find that on YouTube for sure, along with the five movies the Beatles made which include A Hard Day’s Night, Help!, Magical Mystery Tour, Yellow Submarine, and Let It Be. Of those, A Hard Day’s Night is my favorite. For now, try and see the movie. It has a limited release and I’m sure if you do miss it, it’ll be on DVD very shortly.