If you’re not a number-one The Beatles fan, most probably, speaking of John Lennon you will have in mind his picture of late sixties. A hippy looking man, speaking all but pleasant things about the Vietnam war, thus making Mr. Nixon try hard to deport him right back where he came from… And that is Liverpool, England. And how much do you know about this John Lennon, who grew up in the grayish suburbs of the city? Not much, right? Well, don’t feel disturbed – there is not much to know.
Actually there would, if Sam Taylor – Wood would be able to tell it properly. In her first full length feature Nowhere Boy she pictures John Lennon’s teenage years and the beginnings of The Beatles. It is not that the cocky kid called John had an uneventful teen years… In the very center, of course, are his complicated family issues – being raised by his aunt and uncle, the maternal figure is missing, nevertheless she lives just around the corner.
A mixture of this absence of a mother plus the worldwide Elvis fever leads John more and more towards the rock’n’roll. We get to see the assembling of the band, but something is very, very missing in Nowhere Boy. Though, incredibly talented, perhaps too self-confident on the outside, the persona of Lennon stays blank as a page. This is done deliberately, allowing to emphasize the other characters’ influence upon young John. Only at some point you have to remind yourself, that it’s a movie about John Lennon, and not about Mimi Smith (his aunt) or incredibly controversial figure of Julia, Lennon’s mother.
It does not take much to understand, that Taylor – Wood have tried to make this movie as a visualization of all the influences that finally had shaped John Lennon into the figure the whole world will adore a little less than ten years later. But the evocation remains a little bit vague. A brief passage in front of sign of children’s home, entitled Strawberry Field, constant reminder of glasses and other petty details are to portray Lennon’s presence in this film. In the meantime the word Lennon is pronounced very rarely, and the title, The Beatles is never pronounced, as it was blasphemy.
Of course, visual suggestions are much more valuable than the verbal ones, but they have to be witty enough to be taken into account, which is obviously not the case for Nowhere Boy. This could be a film about no matter which suburban kid from Liverpool, not really fitting into the stiff and confused post-war society. Film bases itself more on the spectator’s knowledge – everyone knows the future of Lennon and The Beatles, at this point, it is more viewer’s knowledge who gives a shape to the story of Nowhere Boy. Personally, I would have preferred, if it had been done using cinematographic means.