moviescope at the lff final day

– . – movieScope at the LFF: Final Day


movieScope at the LFF: Final Day

It’s hard to believe that today is the final day of the 2009 London Film Festival. As usual, it’s shot past in a blur of premieres, red carpets, parties and press conferences but, as usual, it’s the films that have proved to be the star of the show. From the festival opener Fantastic Mr Fox, audiences have been taken on a global cinematic journey taking in every genre and taste imaginable. But it is somewhat fitting that the film chosen to close the LFF is British through and through.


Aaron Johnson as John Lennon

Artist Sam Taylor Wood’s feature debut Nowhere Boy is based on the biography of Julia Baird, which tells of her growing up with half-brother John Lennon. And so it’s the years before Lennon became the most influential musician on the planet that are the focus here, starting with the death of his beloved Uncle George (David Threlfall) when he was a teenager and ending with his departure for Hamburg a couple of years later. We see the pubescent scallywag John (Aaron Johnson) learning the guitar, starting a rock group and attempting to develop a relationship with his estranged mother Julia (Anne-Marie Duff) – a bond that is actively discouraged by his Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott-Thomas).


Anne-Marie Duff as Julia and Kristin Scott Thomas as Mimi

Of course, there will be no surprises for any Beatles fan as Lennon’s is a story oft-told, but Wood’s film does get to the heart of the troubled boy whose desire to find himself lead him to form the greatest band of all time. And this is certainly John’s story – the word ‘Beatles’ is never mentioned, and Paul McCartney (Thomas Sangster) and George Harrison (Sam Bell) are reduced to periphery characters. Johnson carries the role with exceptional style, capturing the swaggering confidence and intense vulnerability that would eventually be laid bare in his lyrics, and endear him to millions of fans.

It’s a solid debut from Wood, who has cannily picked a strong story for her debut, one which tells itself. She never lets her focus stray from Lennon and, although Beatles fans will enjoy watching the creation of the band, there are no sly winks at the audience to detract from the human drama playing out in Lennon’s world. Nowhere Boy is a compelling, if familiar story, exceptionally well told.
(4 stars)

[For an in-depth review of Nowhere Boy check out the December/January issue of movieScope on shelves December 2009.



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