Nowhere Boy (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
January 15, 2011 by Dennis Amith
A fantastic biopic of John Lennon’s adolescent years. Intriguing, exciting and sad, “Nowhere Boy” will entertain fans of John Lennon or the Beatles but also non-fans as well. Recommended!
Images courtesy of © 2009 Lennon Films Limited, Channel Four Television Corporation and UK Film Council. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Nowhere Boy
FILM RELEASE DATE: 2009
DURATION: 98 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RATED: R (Language and a Scene of Sexuality)
RELEASE DATE: January 25, 2011
Directed by Sam Taylor-Wood
Based on the memoir by Julia Baird
Screenplay by Matt Greenhalgh
Produced by Robert Bernstein, Kevin Loader, Douglas Rae
Co-Produced by Matt Delargy, Paul Ritchie, James Saynor
Executive Producer: Jon Diamond, Tim Haslam, Christopher Moll, Tessa Ross, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Mark Woolley
Associate Producer: Jaynie Miller
Music by Alison Goldfrapp, Will Gregory
Cinematography by Seams McGarvey
Edited by Lisa Gunning
Casting by Nina Gold
Production Design by Alice Normington
Art Direction by Kimberley Fahey
Set Decoration by Barbara Herman-Skelding
Aaron Johnson as John Lennon
Kristin Scott Thomas as Mimi
David Threlfall as Uncle George
Josh Bolt as Pete
Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Paul
Sam Bell as George
Colin Tierney as Alf
Ophelia Lovibond as Marie
Kerrie Hayes as Marie’s Friend
Angela Walsh as Schoolmistress
Paul Ritter as Pobjoy
Richard Syms as Reverend
Anne-Marie Duff as Julia
James Johnson as Stan
David Morrissey as Bobby
Imagine…John Lennon’s childhood. Liverpool, 1955: a smart and troubled fifteen-year-old is hungry for experience. In a family full of secrets, two incredible women clash over John (Aaron Johnson): Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas), the buttoned-up aunt who raised him, and Julia (Anne-Marie Duff), the prodigal mother. Yearning for a normal family, John escapes into the new and exciting world of rock ‘n’ roll where his fledgling genius finds a kindred spirit in the teenage Paul McCartney (Thomas Brodie Sangster). Just as John begins his new life, tragedy strikes. But a resilient young man finds his voice – and an icon explodes into the world.
There have been plenty of biographies and stories written about John Lennon, the world renown English musician and singer-songwriter, most notably known as one of the founding members of The Beatles.
But while books have covered the difficulties that John Lennon had faced during his teenage years, no one really had details of his life. All we have heard was how he didn’t have a mother, how he got into a lot of trouble and used that teenage angst to form the quarrymen, his first band which led him to one of the greatest musical collaborations and that was Lennon and Paul McCartney meeting, which followed with musician George Harrison joining them and of course, going on to Hamburg, Germany where along with Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best would go on to create the band, The Beatles (at the time, were a five-member band).
But for those who wondered about John Lennon’s life, especially being raised by his Aunt Mimi and his troubled relationship with his mother Julia, it was not until 1989 where Lennon’s half sister Julia Baird would write the book “John Lennon, My Brother” written with Giuliano and featured a foreword by Paul McCartney. In 2007, she followed up with a second book titled “Imagine This – Growing Up with My Brother John Lennon”.
In 2009, a film adaptation based on Julia Baird’s biography was created. The 2009 British-Canadian biopic focused on John Lennon’s adolescence, how he learned to play the guitar, the creation of this first band The Quarrymen and how he would meet Paul McCartney. But also details about his mother and his Aunt Mimi, who raised Lennon.
The film would be the first feature film for director Sam Taylor-Wood and would star young actor (and Wood’s current fiance) Aaron Johnson (“Kick-Ass”, “The Illusionist”, “Shanghai Knights”) and Kristin Scott Thomas (“The English Patient”, “Gosford Park”, “Mission: Impossible”. “Nowhere Boy” would be nominated for four British Academy Award Films including a nomination for “Outstanding British Film”, “Best Supporting Actress” and “Outstanding Debut by a British Director”.
The film would be released in the US in October 2010 to coincide with John Lennon’s 70th Birthday.
“Nowhere Boy” is about John Lennon (played by Aaron Johnson), a young man who lives with his Aunt Mimi (played by Kristin Scott Thomas) and his Uncle George (played by David Threlfall). John isn’t too much into school and he and his friends often get into trouble or have fun with the girls at his school.
But after the passing of his Uncle George (who was more lenient and happy going than his strict Aunt Mimi), John continues to get into more trouble and eventually getting suspended from school and trying to find ways for his aunt not to find out.
One day as he went out with a friend, he learns that he found where his mother Julia has been living. Assuming that she lived far away, John is shocked that she doesn’t live far from where he lives. So, he goes to visit her and despite the awkwardness of their meeting, the two bond remarkably fast and he sees her vibrant and free-will, almost similar to his style.
Julia Lennon lives with John “Bobby” Dykins and their two young daughters Julia and Jacqui. Despite Bobby not so happy to see John cause a change in their family dynamics, he knows that Julia is happy meeting her son again, who she keeps calling him “her dream”.
But when John gets suspended once again, he needs to pretend that he is going to school but instead he visits his mother. Both have an appreciation for music and when she takes him to see a theater performance for Elvis Presley, John Lennon is changed. But unfortunately, he doesn’t know how to play any instruments. So, Julia goes to teach him how to play the banjo.
When the school contacts Mimi about John’s suspension, she learns from his friend the secret that John has been keeping from her. That he has been going to her sister’s Julia’s home.
This leads to an argument with John and his Aunt Mimi and John goes to live with Julia. Despite Julia and the girls being happy about them living together, her boyfriend Bobby feels she is neglecting the girls and that John needs to go. John overhears this and moves out of his mother’s home back to Aunt Mimi and both get back to good terms with each other. But they make a deal. If John does well in school, she will buy him a guitar.
This begins John Lennon’s pursuit of being a musician and immediately creates a band with his buddies called “The Quarrymen”. They perform at a local gig and eventually impress another 15-year-old musician who wants to meet John Lennon. The boy turns out to be Paul McCartney who shows off his guitar-playing talent which impresses Lennon and eventually Paul becomes a member.
As the film continues to focus on John’s pursuit of becoming a musician and in a band, the film focuses on relationships and we learn why John Lennon was raised by his Aunt Mimi, why his mother abandoned him and how he and his new music friends would go on to Hamburg, Germany (where he and his other bandmates would go on to create “The Beatles”).
“Nowhere Boy” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1). The film is absolutely vibrant in colors but also the film utilizes special lens filters to give a faded look in which colors are intentionally softer and not bolder but it looks fantastic. I saw no signs of DNR, no artifacting. Blacks were nice and deep nor did I see any banding.
“Nowhere Boy” features fantastic PQ.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Nowhere Boy” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA. The film features a strong center and front channel drive lossless track with dialogue and music becoming clear. There is some use of surround, mainly when it comes to crowd scenes and you can hear the ambiance through those surround channels.
The music for the film is very good, crystal clear and heard no problems with the audio at all. But this is a dialogue and music driven film, so expect to see more center and front channel driven audio.
As for subtitles, “Nowhere Boy” is presented in English and English SDH.
“Nowhere Boy” features the following special features in standard definition:
- Deleted Scenes – (3:55) Featuring two deleted scenes: “John and Julie” and “A Quick Chat”.
- The Making of Nowhere Boy – (7:46) Featuring interviews with director Sam Taylor Wood and the cast and the making of the film.
- Nowhere Boy: The Untold Story of John Lennon and the Creation of The Beatles – (13:10) Director Sam Taylor Wood, Martin Lewis (Beatles Historian), Yoko Onno and others talk about “Nowhere Boy”.
When it comes to John Lennon, you think you read or seen it all when it comes to the Beatles by the many writings, biographies, documentaries out there but I have to admit, although I read about how John Lennon got into a bit of trouble as a teen, you never knew how sad his life was.
Yoko Onno said about “Nowhere Boy” that John would have been happy with the film because people would get to learn how sad his life was. And most of all, how he endured from all that pain. What I found pretty interesting, especially since this story was based on Lennon’s half sister, Julia Baird’s book was how free-spirited their mother Julia was. How she would flirt with John and also flirt with his bandmates (especially with Paul McCartney) and as seen in the film, would upset John Lennon.
We also got to see some of that Lennon and McCartney rivalry as both liked the attention from the women, John much more. But of course, this biggest bombshell was finding out why John Lennon was raised by his Aunt Mimi and abandoned by his mother. And needless to say, the tragedy that took place life not much longer.
“Nowhere Boy” is an exciting and enjoyable biopic for anyone who is fascinated by the Beatles, especially for those who want to learn more about John Lennon and even if you’re not a fan. This is one part of his life that has never been featured before in a film or documentary and so, it was a surprise but also quite refreshing to see something that took place in Lennon’s adolescence versus his time with the Beatles, after the Beatles and leading up to his death.
The film looks fantastic on Blu-ray and director Sam Taylor-Wood does a great job in bringing Julia Baird’s book to life in this film.
But where this Blu-ray release does disappoint me, its because of its lack of special features.
The UK Icon Home entertainment Blu-ray release featured a wonderful audio commentary by director Sam Taylor-Wood but it’s not in the US Blu-ray release. We also don’t get the “Lennon’s Liverpool”, “Anatomy of a scene: That’s When I Stole him”, “Photo Gallery”, “Interview”, “The Re-Creation of Lennon and the Quarrymen” and more deleted scenes which had a commentary by Sam Taylor-Wood. We do get the newer “Nowhere Boy: The Untold Story of John Lennon and the Creation of the Beatles Featurette”. Typically, we tend to get exact to more features of what the UK has and this UK Blu-ray release was back in May 2010.
So, I’m a little bummed out by the lack of special features that did not make it over for the US release. Fortunately, because this Blu-ray release is BD-Live enabled, hopefully Sony chooses to have it available via BD-Live in the near future.
Otherwise, “Nowhere Boy” gives us an idea of how troubled John Lennon was as a teenager and in many ways, it does give me an idea why as an adult, he had trust issues and also got himself into trouble and excessive drug use. The biopic shows us that even before the Beatles, before the Quarrymen, Lennon living without his mother and father and being raised by his strict aunt was tough for him. The film doesn’t examine why he had a trouble life growing up but we get to see that pain he had lived with.
I did question the validity of the story at first but after seeing how it was based off Julia Baird’s book, and as a young girl, got to know John Lennon as a teenager around the house but also receiving some input from Yoko Onno (who loved the film) and Paul McCartney, you realized that unfortunates circumstances helped shape Lennon’s life and eventually leading him and his friends and going to Hamburg, Germany and eventually creating the Beatles.
“Nowhere Boy” is an intriguing, exciting but also sad biopic but it does give us a look at John Lennon’s personal life and what shaped him as a musician.
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