Charting the traumatic teenage years of John Lennon, Nowhere Boy suffers from the problem many biopics have, taking a rich complex life and reducing it down to “X is like this, because of Y”. The story centres around Lennon (played by Aaron Johnson) and his relationship with, and battles between his absentee fun loving mother Julia, and the stern Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas) who raised him.
You would think it is impossible to make a boring film about John Lennon, at any stage his life, but particularly at the stage where he is learning to play guitar and first meeting up with Paul McCartney and George Harrison. However, the big problem with the film lies in the main character, as Johnson does little to make him into a distinctive character beyond that, and the script often paints him as little more than a sullen teenager, with one dreary and dramatically obvious scene unfolding after another. A possible Oedipal attraction between John and Julia (who is looks and acts more like his elder sister than mother) is hinted at in a wonderfully uncomfortable scene, but never properly explored beyond that
If you want to know something of Lennon the man, listen to his music, which we finally get to do as his solo song “Mother” plays over the end credits, a piece that tells us as much about his relationship with her in four tense dramatic minutes than this film manages in more than ninety torpid ones.