Being at the center of Beatlemania, the late Fab Four band leader John Lennon led a life on the run from fanatic female fans. While that may not have been true in pre- Beatle days, Lennon in his early years was the object of contention between two women: Aunt Mimi, who raised him, and Mother Julia, who didn’t.
The film, “Nowhere Boy, “ dramatizes his troubled youth, up to and including the creation of the nucleus of the legendary rock ‘n’ roll group. The tough task of playing the “Smart Beatle,” familiar to all, falls to actor Aaron Johnson, who digs deep to unearth the roots of the pain that screamed through Lennon’s vocals from “Twist and Shout” to “Mother.”
But Kristin Scott Thomas (Mimi) and Anne-Marie Duff (Julia) are the actors who steal the film. Their characters are as different as oil and water. Mimi tries to impose discipline on the boy’s bubbling libido, while Julia is the free spirit, who sends him flying into rock ‘n’ roll heaven. In fact, Julia is so wild that Mimi doesn’t let John meet her until he was 17, though she only lives a Liverpudlian block away.
As she sways to “Rocket 88” on the jukebox, Julia asks, “Do you know what rock ‘n’ roll is?” To John’s blank response, she answers, “Sex.”
After a movie house visit with Mum to see a gyrating Elvis Presley, John is hooked. What’s left of his academic career goes up in flames, along with his report card. Suspended from school, he stays with Julia, who teaches him to play the banjo. Before long, it’s guitar. Then a “scuttle band” called, The Quarrymen,” with two talented mates named, Paul McCartney and George Harrison.
Though it is about the world’s most influential rock group, “Nowhere Boy” is far from being a musical. At first, John Lennon isn’t particularly interested in music. What he needs is a way out of his rut. Pain is his fuel. The Beatles, his rocket.