Friday, October 22, 2010

Love the Beatles?

Well, who doesn't.  Yet, even if the dulcet tones of the harmonies on "If I Fell," "Ticket to Ride," or "Norwegian Wood" don't move you, this film, that opened in the US the day before what would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday, will. 

"Nowhere Boy", directed by Sam Taylor-Wood and co-written by Julia Baird, who is John's half-sister, and Matt Greenhalgh, is the story of John Lennon's life before the Beatles, as a young man growing up in Liverpool.  It is largely based upon Julia Baird's book, Imagine This: Growing Up With My Brother John Lennon. As I sat in the theatre anxiously waiting for the film to start, I was transported back to that day as a very young fan (I was 7 when they first appeared on Ed Sullivan and I had already stolen all of my sister's albums and knew every word) sitting on my parent's bed staring at the black and white TV in anticipation of seeing them perform for the first time, and crying when they came on.  My mom had to comfort me and hold me through the whole show.  So, as this film started, it was like going home for me, especially when the first sound I heard was the opening chord for "Hard Day's Night."  From there, the film moves into setting up what his life was like as a teenager in Liverpool during the late 50's and early 60's, as well as the beginnings of rock and roll and where and when John (played by Aaron Johnson, who just catapulted his career) first heard Elvis and many other rockers of that era.  We meet John's Aunt Mimi (played by the perfectly cast Kristin Scott Thomas) and Uncle George (played by David Threlfall), with whom he is living, and we find out how his Uncle George died and what an impact that had upon him.  We are then introduced to his mother, Julia (played by Anne-Marie Duff.)  The story behind why he is living with his aunt and uncle and not his mother is explained later in the film but when we first see John reunited with his mother, we get a glimpse into the tragedies of his life that shaped him.  Julia is the first person to introduce John to the bango and Mimi is the first person to buy John a guitar.  John is in and out of school and eventually starts his own band, the Quarrymen.  At one of their first gigs, he is introduced to a skinny kid named Paul, who plays the guitar backwards.  John and Paul bond over Paul's admission that his mother died a year before but there is always a slight bit of jealousy coming from John when it becomes apparent that Paul is as talented and sought after as John.  The real story of John's birth, where his father is and what caused his mother to let her sister, Mimi, have custody of him comes out towards the end of the film and it provides some really tender and agonizing scenes that will leave you with a much clearer idea of the man who was John Lennon.  The acting in this film is superb, as well as the ambiance of the time.  John's wit is showcased at times, especially near the end, as well as his deep-seeded anguish and longing for approval and love.  Also throughout the film, there are references thrown in to future songs that John will write, as when he bicycles past Strawberry Fields, or is doodling in his school book and the poem above it is something about a walrus.  The film ends with John telling Mimi that he has a new gig in Hamburg and will be gone for several months.  She asks him, "Is it with that new band of yours, oh, what's the name?  I can never remember." 

We will never forget.

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