AWFJ Women On Film – “Nowhere Boy” – Review by Susan Granger

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On October 9th, John Lennon would have celebrated his 70th birthday. So perhaps it’s fitting to take a look at his turbulent youth and how his formative teenage years in Liverpool shaped the creative man and passionate musician he was to become.

Back in 1955, Lennon (Aaron Johnson) was an angst-ridden, rebellious 15 year-old. Raised by his prim, strict disciplinarian Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas) and her husband, Uncle George (David Threlfall), he doesn’t realize that the woman he knows as vivacious, free-spirited, emotionally unstable Aunt Julia (Anne-Marie Duff), who lives not far away, is really his mother and that he was “kidnapped” by Aunt Mimi at the age of five when he wanted to go with his dad to New Zealand.

About the time he discovers the complex, occasionally sordid truth, he’s become enamored with Elvis Presley and rock ‘n’ roll, starting a local band, known as The Quarrymen, and then making serious music with a left-handed guitarist, Paul McCartney (Thomas Sangster), and another bloke named George Harrison (Sam Bell). This background story ends as they head to Hamburg and embark on their lives as they evolve into the Beatles.

Adapted by Matt Greenhalgh (“Control”) from Lennon’s half-sister Julia Baird’s memoir, “Imagine This: Growing Up with My Brother John Lennon,” and directed by Sam Taylor-Wood, it’s, essentially, a conventional, if tumultuous, family melodrama that takes its perceptive title from a school headmaster who chides cheeky young Lennon by telling him he’s going nowhere. Glimpsing Mendips, Woolton and Strawberry Fields, where local celebrations were held, one feels drenched in the dull, gray dreariness of the Liverpool that Lennon eagerly left behind.

Along with his uncanny resemblance, Aaron Johnson (“Kick-Ass”) captures both the insecurity and the insouciance of young Lennon, while Anne-Marie Duff and Kristin Scott Thomas embody the complicated, fiercely competitive sisters.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Nowhere Boy” is a poignant, perceptive 7, appealing to Beatles’ aficionados and delving into the pop psychology behind Lennon’s poignant lyrics: “Mother, you had me, but I never had you.”

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.