Weekend TV Reviews – Nowhere Boy

by Lynn Connolly


This fascinating documentary took us behind the scenes of Sam Taylor-Wood’s extraordinary film about John Lennon’s early years. That time before he became an icon and someone for whom fame would ultimately bring death.

The film was the finale piece of the London Film Festival earlier this year and it’s received rave reviews, not least for resisting the urge to hark back to what we already know of John and his Beatles fame.

In fact, in the film itself, the only allusion to the Beatles is in the opening music; the first few seconds is carried with the famous opening chords of A Hard Day’s Night.

But in this documentary, we heard from many of the film’s cast and crew, and what a stellar cast it is too; Kristin Scott, Anne Marie Duff, the fabulous David Threlfall and of course, Aaron Johnson as Lennon. All put in brilliant performances and all spoke fondly of not only the film, but naturally, of Lennon himself.

There might of course be yells of nepotism in that Aaron Johnson is Taylor-Wood’s fiancé, but a better performance would’ve been tough to find, so that should negate the words of the cynical naysayers who’ll doubtless wonder if Aaron got the part simply because he’s Taylor-Wood’s ‘toyboy’.

From the clips of the film that we saw last night, Johnson’s portrayal of the effects Lennon’s complex family life had on him was at once under-stated and dominant. His mother – played beautifully exuberantly by Anne-Marie Duff – abandoned him early in his childhood but she was to arrive back in his life later and was said to have “introduced” John to rock ‘n roll.

She taught him to play the banjo and gave him a harmonica, both of which ignited a spark and the blue touch paper of Lennon’s raison d’être was lit.

She was doubtless a welcome diversion when she bounded back into his life at a time when John was living with his rather severe and strict Aunt Mimi – who was again convincingly portrayed by Kristin Scott Thomas. The juxtaposition of the diametric opposites of their personas must’ve had Lennon reeling.

We also got to hear a good deal about Taylor-Wood’s own formative years, and she shares some commonalities with Lennon which is perhaps why she was so able to parlay his angst, happiness and drive so well onto the screen.

She too was abandoned by her mother and she too experienced the early dawn of the form of music that was to usher in the next part of Lennon’s life.

This was a really interesting film, and I would imagine it’s probably going to turn up on the film’s DVD as a ‘Making Of’ extra, but it was no less worthwhile for that. If you missed it, you can see it here on 4oD.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.