I had the opportunity to have a night out with the family and catch a showing of the new John Lennon biopic – “Nowhere Boy” at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville.
(A quick history of the Colonial Theatre – this theatre became famous in the 1958 cult classic “The Blob” when the patrons run screaming from the theatre after the blob takes over.)
I was really torn watching this movie. It a very well made film and the acting is quite good. It is a wonderful to relax to…if you’re not a die-hard Beatles fan. I must have leaned over about five times and whispered in my husband’s ear, “That’s not how that happened.” From John’s blue eyes (his were brown) to Paul McCartney being shorter than him (he wasn’t) to Uncle George dying in front of John (John was away when his uncle died), a hardcore Beatles fan will feel like there are nails scratching a blackboard while watching. But, for the average, everyday music fan that just wants a little background into Lennon’s early years…yes, this film will please you. And though a lot of it is a bit out of chronological order, it gets its point across of the turmoil and heartbreak that Lennon must have felt in his youth and adolescence.
I’m not sure how to rate this film. I want to scream, “Did you think we wouldn’t notice your blatant disregard of the facts?” and at the same time, I want to say, “Great film…very well made!” This is where I’m going to have to say to my readers, go see the film and try to separate yourself from the truth just enough to enjoy the film. There really isn’t any one thing in this movie that changes the overall story of John Lennon’s real story and that can’t be attributed to ‘artist license’. And for this reason…
I rate this film: 3 out of 4 Beetles
The movie will continue to be shown throughout this week (November 5-11, 2010) at the Colonial Theatre. For more information and showtimes, please go to: www.TheColonialTheatre.com.
27 responses to “Movie Review: Nowhere Boy”
My feelings on the film are similar to yours. (My review is here: http://exm.nr/bC6ihd) Overall, I just took it as just a story. I liked the Liverpool scenery the best. But it’s just a story, like a soap opera. There are some elements that work, but the people have been bent and twisted to fit the director’s view. Which is fine, as many films take dramatic liberties. But “Nowhere Boy” has been trying to pass itself off as the true story. It’s not. The Lennon family says so and others, like you, say so. So enjoy it for what it is. But don’t make it what it’s not — the real thing.
Thanks for your feedback, Steve.
Did you find the scene with the girl in the park a little too graphic in relationship to the rest of the movie?
I didn’t really pay much attention to that, to be honest. I mean after the sexy scenes in “Backbeat,” it wasn’t that much to be concerned about. But back to the topic, movies about the Beatles have been tough to do. I think my favorite still is “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” “Nowhere Boy” is fiction. That’s what people should keep in mind.
I am as die hard as it comes regarding the Beatles. While watching this movie I had the feeling they could have replaced John Lennon with any character and it would have just been like any other dramatic film. The movie was not historically accurate and it had little to do with the Beatles and their relationship to music. It seemed like the movie was just about a troubled boy and his awkward relationship with his mother.
Also, they didn’t pay any attention to Stuart Sutcliffe in this film. His death was, I think, almost as detrimental to John as his mothers. Lastly, I agree the scene in the park could have been less graphic.
You can’t be serious. Paul was shorter so the movie’s inacurate? Actually Paul was 14 at the time and John was 16, so I imagine he WAS shorter. The eye color is off – so what, the kid who played John wasn’t John – he was an actor, and had we measured him, he might have been – 5′ 10 and 1/2″ instead of 5′ 10″ and maybe he weighed 150 instead of 145 or something – does it really matter? I’m a huge fan like yourself but we have to accept that when a movie is made it has to be entertaining, so sometimes there are changes for dramatic effect. I really enjoyed the movie quite a bit and so did my wife. Lighten up, loosen your collar, enjoy life.
Good for you that you could suspend your disbelief long enough to enjoy this dramatization. But I, like BF, could not.
If you’re going to play fast and loose with the facts of a historical figure’s life, just call it what it is: fiction.
And change the names while you’re at it.
I enjoyed it for what it is – a film depiction of the teenage years of someone who as an adult became more than he or anyone could have ever imagined. Any book or movie of a person’s life can never be totally accurate, whether it is claimed to be non-fiction or fiction. I took it as entertainment based on someone I love dearly, so I enjoyed it despite the inaccuracies. I had just returned from an absolutely fab visit to Liverpool – I saw Uncle George’s real grave, Mendips, Julia’s house – all the wonderful sites. The real sites were not in the film but I still was taken by the portrayal of John’s early years. Our tour guide in Liverpool, who lives and breathes the Beatles, also was really torn. She recognized the many liberties taken – Julia’s daughters were not told of her death for weeks afterward so would not have been at the house after the funeral – but still found the film compelling. It offers insight into the years the made him the man that he became.
I’m glad it’s not just me! I didn’t like the movie at all. Had a chance to get an early DVD of it about 6 months ago and came away from it feeling very sad. Yet again, another Lennon biopic that’s so far off the mark. The inaccuracies are rampant. Unlike you, I didn’t think the acting was that good. I thought the scouse was lousy. The biggest problem I had though was beyond the aesthetics (although the blue eyes bugged the crap outta me). The portrayal of Julia was such a caricature! Yes, Julia was very flirtatious and free-thinking…there’s no denying that, but for god sake, they make her out to be a psychotic bound and determined to bed her own son. Just because John mentioned an incident in his audio diary (which is very true), they’ve taken that moment and made it the focus of their relationship. I think it’s horrible. I also would hate to think of how the portrayal of Mimi would have been before the re-write. As it is, they have her as “Mimi the Hun”. The woman DID have a heart and NEVER threw things at John’s head. She would have died first. Regarding the sex scene with the girl, no, I didn’t find that offensive. John was a very sexual guy from an early age, so I felt that was appropriate to portray. I just worry that the “average” Beatles/Lennon fan will come away from this movie with the wrong idea about Julia and Mimi, and that will, over time, colour his life, which is now becoming more mythology than fact. John said it himself…just gimme some truth!
Patti: I didn’t hate it, but like I said above, it is what it is. I think it should be appreciated, but its importance not overblown. Some people are making it out to be the one true story, especially with Yoko’s support of it. I don’t take it totally seriously, as I don’t take “Backbeat” or any other fictional film about them totally seriously.
Here’s my review from back when it was being shown in Norway: http://wogew.blogspot.com/2010/01/nowhere-boy-movie.html
You should also see “Lennon Naked”, which is a bit like a sequel, but with real Lennon and Beatles music: http://wogew.blogspot.com/2010/10/lennon-naked-review.html
Roger: I thought “Lennon Naked” was very one-dimensional and hardly a great dramatization of him. People who didn’t like NB would definitely not like this. My review of LN is here: http://www.examiner.com/beatles-in-national/bbc-s-lennon-naked-tv-movie-barely-tells-the-former-beatle-s-full-story
One criticism too many.
In the movie, Uncle George did not die in front of John.
In the movie, Mimi informed John with little emotion, which is what is described in biographies.
The most serious non-truth in this movie is that John never punched Paul in the mouth.
The best and most accurate truth projected in this movie (and missing from other stories) is that Paul was John’s musical superior.
I’m reading all of the replys here and it never ceases to amaze me how otherwise normal people think they actually know a celebrity (This case John Lennon) based on what?, “A Hard Day’s Night”, “Help”, some interviews and books that you’ve read? It’s funny how people put complete faith in what’s written in a book as absolute fact, like Hunter Davies “The Beatles” or “Shout” by Philip Norman but when a film doesn’t portray it as the same, the film is completely wrong. I’m willing to bet the books aren’t 100% accurate either. Now unless I miss my guess, none of you actually grew up with John much less slept at Aunt Mimi’s house to witness first hand what went on. I choose to believe that books give a pretty good view of what went on, but I, by no means think that authors are completely accurate or even try to be, they are trying to sell a product, just like the movie business. Anyone here believe a word of what Albert Goldman has to say in “The Lives Of John Lennon”? Anyone see the Beatles Anthology? There’s a very amusing part of the film where all of the participants (The Beatles) remember Shea Stadium DIFFERENTLY, and they were there !!! My point is, authors depend on information from people who were there and they depend on them to remember it accurately, which is not always easy. Just my 2 cents which is probably all it’s worth.
Maclen, I agree 100%. I’ve been a Beatles fan for 45 years and there are times when I’m embarassed to associate with other ‘fans’. With all of the whining done here with regards to the NB film, this is one of those times. Your post is a breath of fresh air. Sidenote; I have seen the movie Lennon Naked. I thought that it was very well done, too. I imagine the people that derided Nowhere Boy will hate this one as well.
I just received a review copy of Lennon Naked and will be watching in the next day or two. Keep an eye out for my review in the next several days….
Lenmac, thanks for the vote of confidence. I too have been a fan since Ed Sullivan and am looking forward to the “Lennon Naked” film. Nice to get some new stuff from John, thought the “Double Fantasy Stripped Down” a substantial improvement, a welcome addition.
Paul McCartney said clearly that it is wrong in the movie when John punches Paul. He said it never happened. This is not my opinion. This was reported on the beatlesnews.com website that lead to this website.
John Lennon played guitar with banjo chords until Paul taught him differently. This is not my opinion.
Actually in the excellent thorough,John Lennon biography Lennon by award winning music journalist and former editor for 20 years of The Melody Maker Magazine, and close friend of John’s from 1962-1980,he says Cynthia said that when John first told his aunt Mimi that Cynthia was pregnant, John told Cynthia that there had been the most tremendous scene,one of the worst things he’d ever have to go through and that Mimi through everything at him,Mimi yelled,”You stupid children,getting yourselves into this situation! You’ve got yourself into this mess,now get yourselves out of it!”
I forgot to mention the author of the great book,Lennon is Ray Coleman.
Maclen, I do think you make a good point about taking what’s written in various Beatles books as gospel, but I do have to disagree with you a bit. Authors today (some not all of course) are spending a great deal of time and money to access the best possible resources to write the most accurate accounts of this group and its members. Yes, they still rely on the memories of people who did have first hand knowledge, but you can believe they’re checking multiple times into that story before it hits the page so I wouldn’t disregard the information we get from them so casually or think they’re only trying to make a quick buck.
As for the film, I too was annoyed by some of the historical inaccuracies, but only some. Though John may not have hit Paul, it’s not so unbelievable to think he would have knowing their relationship especially at that time. I wasn’t sure what to make of Julia and since I don’t know that much about her, it’s these parts of the film that confuse me most. If other things had been more accurate, I could make sense of it, you know? But since I know making a film of someone’s life as it happened (to the best of our knowledge) isn’t good entertainment, I can only assume they either exaggerated her personality or portrayed her as she was. Deciding which I should believe is the hard part. It’s the same with other parts of the film that are really unclear to us as fans – things that have been touched on but never delved into – since this could be new ground we’re discovering or complete falsehoods.
Overall, though, I enjoyed the film. I think the film makers put a lot of effort into bringing us back to that period and exposing us to what John’s life at that age could have been like and probably was. Some people thought they portrayed him too soft, some thought too hard, but I think they got just the right balance. I loved all the actors and the aesthetics didn’t bother me at all; we’re not going to find clones after all. Anyway, I love anything to do about Lennon and people so often focus in on his death. This film was a breath of fresh air and it’ll be a nice little film to add to my collection.
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Hi! I just watched “Nowhere Boy, and there are some things I need to know about your take. First, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Aaron Tyler-Johnson are in real life only half an inch in height difference (5′ 101/2” vs 5′ 11”). Brodie-Sangster is the lowest, but such a minor difference would not have been noticeable for most people. Brodie-Sangster was 19 when he portrayed 15 year old Paul, so he was probably fully grown – in fact he is a month older than Tyler-Johnson. If you look again at the film (worth a repeat), you can see that they are the same height. I will add that the film has a number of screenings where it looks as if John is taller than Paul, but the actors are not, so it is probably a trick of the mind.
Also, while I agree that the relationship with the mother is exaggerated for dramatic effect, the eye colour is off and George Smith did not die while John was present, the point of the film should rather be to get the feel of the film rather than total accuracy, don’t you think? Was the character true to John? Was Paul well-represented?
You see, if you are to pick apart inaccuracies, which I as a Beatle fan for 30 years and a major in history applaud, you must take them all. The beer glass, the radio sketches and the cigarettes are equally incorrect, but probably not as much in the way of the story for most.
Personally I think it is a good step up from Backbeat. Too one-dimensional on Paul and not enough George, but a step in the right direction. I am still hoping to see a good feature film about The Beatles not named “A Hard Day’s Night” at some point.
My comments on the glaring mistakes in Nowhere Boy reflect those of the Beatles purists. And though to many these fanatics may seem a bit overboard in their demand for perfection, they do provide good reasoning behind it. ..Where as you and I know the truth about what really happened, a young, new, soon to be Beatles fan is not going to be able to see discern the fictitious parts and will take it as gospel. This is who rumors and lies get started about the Fab Four. It’s like the rumor about Aunt Mimi dodging bombs in the streets to see John when he was born in the hospital. It never happened that way…yet the story lives on.
Thanks for your comment.
Yep, it is interesting when I took up the Phillip Norman book and discovered that there are some factual errors. Among them, as you pointed out the fact that Liverpool wasn’t bombed on October 9th.
Still, I stand by my point. They are the same height. That being said, please continue your blog, it is highly enjoyable, and I learn lots and you help me find a good understanding about most things.
Thank you for reading!
It’s a movie, not an historical documentary. Without too much tremendous diviation, it captures John’s life in his teen years quite well.