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Nowhere Boy: John Lennon's early life - review

Updated on May 29, 2015
The early life of John Lennon
The early life of John Lennon | Source

The birth of the Beatles - a fabulous film

You don't have to be a fan, or even to know anything about the Beatles, to love this film. I admit that I was prepared to be disappointed but the opposite was the case. To be terribly British for a moment, it's bloody brilliant.

It covers the period between 1955 and 1960 and has everything - wonderful music, incredible acting, a fabulous script and astounding attention to detail.

Four actors stand out above all others. The two lads who play Lennon and McCartney and the women who play the most influential roles in Lennon's early life, his mother and his aunt.

True to life?

No, I don't think it does reflect the family situation completely accurately. I had recently read the book by John Lennon's sister (see below) and I'd heard that originally, the film was largely based on her book. It wasn't as far as I could tell and when I checked the credits, I saw no mention of it.

But that in no way detracts from the movie. I loved the whole thing and especially the small details (Mimi rolling newspaper 'sticks' and brown teapots).

If I had to single out the actor of the whole movie, it would definitely be Aaron Johnson who portrayed Lennon, closely followed by the incredible Kristin Scott Thomas as his middle-class 'guardian' Aunt Mimi. Both were incredible.

The making of Nowhere Boy

The edition we have included a short 'making of' documentary and one aspect shone through. That was that the actors and crew interviewed simply loved making the film and felt that they understood the character they portrayed. Their enthusiasm comes over so well in the finished product -I highly recommend it.

Read my review of his sister's book

See a sample on this video

When I first wrote this review, this video wasn't available so I included the trailer here. But now I'm so pleased that I can show you this because I think it's one of the finest pieces of acting I've ever seen. Truly.

The scene from the film shows the group making their first demo record. Interestingly, it was written by Paul McCartney and George Harrison (I believe it's the only one that's attributed this way.)

What is truly amazing is how actor Aaron Johnson, playing John, shows a wealth of emotion in such a subtle way. Just in case we the audience don't realise that he is thinking about his mother, Julia, there is a small segment showing the pair of them dancing.

I think too that this has now become my favourite Beatles' song and yet it was unfamiliar to me until I saw the movie.

Imagine This
Imagine This
This is the book that the movie was supposedly based on. I'm not sure. I read this before I saw the film.I'd recommend that you do the same. Julia was in a unique position in the family and I'm rather inclined to believe her version of events rather than that of screenwriter.
I read this prior to seeing the film too - the story of his first wife and her story of those early days.The three, the film, this book and Julia's memories are a perfect package. It's up to the reader / viewer to determine the truth.

The missing facts

What I am about to write detracts in no way from this astoundingly brilliant film - but....

I have found distinct differences between those books and interviews by John's family and close friends (including the Beatles) and those which are sanctioned by Yoko Ono. I feel that I should point these out.

  • Julia was not an unfit mother. John lived with her until he was five years old when he was temporarily taken to live with his Aunt Mimi
  • Until his mother's death, he visited her and stayed with her regularly
  • John was not the 'working class hero' that he was portrayed to be. His aunt brought him up in a comfortable middle-class home and to have no trace of the Liverpool accent
  • When John was young, it was quite common for children to be brought up by relatives. The recent war had created many single mothers, thanks to either widowhood or casual wartime affairs
  • Although John was undoubtedly traumatised by his mother's death, it must be remembered that Paul McCartney's mother had died equally tragically eighteen months previously. Both named their children (Julian Lennon & Mary McCartney) after their mothers

This film, though brilliant, should not necessarily be seen as the absolute truth. It was endorsed by Yoko.

© 2014 Jackie Jackson


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    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @bravewarrior - thank you so much for your comments.I completely agree. I'm just so pleased that Julian Lennon seems to be a thoroughly decent bloke these days. I strongly suspect that this is entirely due to Cynthia since John was more or less out of his life when the poor boy was just five years old.

      And yet Yoko is more than happy to make money out of John's memory. Strangely though she seems to resent anyone else who does so because the impression I get is that John is 'her property'. I agree that she was the end of the Beatles. The early John had a great sense of humour. The John in the Yoko years was too serious and rather bizarre.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      5 years ago from Central Florida

      Jackie, it seems whenever I wonder where my favorite hubbers have gone, they show up. I was just thinking about you the other day and here you are!

      John Lennon is one of my favorite artists. I've not heard of this movie, but will buy the book you recommend.

      I wrote a post about Julian Lennon. It made me very angry that he was shoved aside in favor of Sean after Yoko came into the picture. I'll admit I just don't like the woman.

      Cynthia was with John in the beginning. They gave birth to Julian. At the advice of The Beatles' manager, both she and Julian were hidden from the public in order to maintain John's heartthrob persona with their young female audience.

      If you watched the 50-year anniversary of the Beatles, Yoko and Sean were in the front row, although far removed from Paul and Ringo. Julian chose not to attend. It's so sad.

      I see Yoko as the beginning of the end of The Beatles.

      John was a poet, philosopher, and lover of peace. I mourned when he was killed, but he's still present in my life and mindset. Imagine is my favorite song. It speaks to me and of me.

      I'm also a huge supporter of Julian. The man is amazing. He is living out John's legacy and making a positive difference in the world. John would be proud.

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      6 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Kylyssa: I keep watching it - it has me hooked. The acting is simply brilliant. No-one ever knows what went on behind closed doors but I've been reading a lot about John recently and I'm reading an authorised McCartney biography now so I believe that the film is pretty true to life.

    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 

      6 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      I'll have to check it out. I'm intrigued by the bit written by George and Paul. I understand one must watch such films with the knowledge that they may be a bit fictionalized here and there for whatever reason.

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      6 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Brite-Ideas: I think that's one of the wonderful aspects - it's a good stand-alone story in itself.

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      6 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Merrci: Thank you - it's a fabulous film.

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 

      6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      I really enjoyed this movie - I tripped on it by accident one day on TV (late at night) and I was immediately drawn in - took me a minute to figure out that it was about John Lennon, and after that, I was REALLY eager to watch it!

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 

      6 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      So many classic songs by them. Great lens!


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