Monday, January 31, 2011

Nowhere Boy, The Untold Story of John Lennon and the Creation of The Beatles

I love music, especially Rock N Roll. Over the years, as both a musician, and a fan I have come to appreciate the history of music, from Western Swing and its roots in Tulsa Oklahoma, to Country and Western and those early sessions with The Carter Family in Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia. While there is much debate as to who started what, and which band was influenced by whom, there is no mistake about the reality that The Beatles had as much a dramatic impact on music as we know it as any band to ever exist. A critical component to the creation of The Beatles, their sound, and their make-up was influenced by no individual more than John Lennon. Nowhere Boy is a movie that goes where few others have dared. It goes to the real story and history of John Lennon’s youth, and the women who influenced and molded him through his teen years despite what seemed to be the destructive path he was on.

Nowhere Boy is a riveting tale which has received the praise and endorsements from the likes of Yoko Ono and Paul McCartney among others. Those who have seen it have commented on the spirit and accuracy of the story brilliantly told by Sam Taylor-Wood. Ms. Taylor-Wood has paid incredible attention to detail and the spirit of John Lennon in the telling of this story. She weaves a fine tapestry that shows us the process of John Lennon’s’ transformation from a boy without vision to a man with a dream. In the telling of that tale, Aaron Johnson is mesmerizing as John Lennon. From his performance as a musician to his characterization of Lennon, Johnson is incredible. In many ways, on screen, he becomes a young John Lennon. Not the one many have known from his hey day in The Beatles, but in who Lennon was in his formative years. Along this brilliantly weaved tale we see the input and influence of Lennon’s Aunt Mimi, whom he called every week for the duration of his life once he entered college to his happy go lucky, partying mother who gave him over to his Aunt to care for him when he was five-years-old. His mother, Marie, played by Orphelia Lovibond, is a flirtatious young woman who has issues of her own. Yet when Lennon’s overbearing Aunt places pressure on him to be a young man, it is Marie who takes him in for a brief period of time and helps form his love for Rock N Roll. It is also his mother Marie that teaches him some of the basics of playing the banjo, which ultimately leads to the guitar. Through the heartache of not knowing himself, of being a nowhere boy of sorts, we see and understand more about the man, John Lennon. The use of period music, dress and styles, we are transformed back in history in a believable way.

In her direction, Taylor-Wood does a wonderful job of developing not only the character of John Lennon but each of the instrumental characters in this period of life including his early friendship with Paul McCartney. As the characters develop we find ourselves at times not knowing if we like John Lennon or not. By the time the movie concludes though it isn’t so much of a like or dislike issue, it is that we seem to understand this complicated man, oftentimes controversial man who contributed so much to society. This was something I didn’t expect. I wasn’t a big fan of John Lennon, the things I saw in my youth seemed to indicate a man I didn’t like. Nowhere Man brought me to a believable place where I think I understand him now, and with that understanding, comes a much deeper appreciation.

John Lennon was a man much like many youth today. He so desperately wanted a mother and a father. He wanted and desired to have a family that loved him. The search for identity and love is something many search for today because they, like Lennon, have grown up in situations where they have been passed from one family member to another. They make many of the same mistakes, and have never felt the bond of love that comes from a mother and father in the home. I couldn’t help but think about how this man had written so many songs about his search and need for love, yet he felt for much of his life, unloved. I was reminded of much of the controversy surrounding Lennon, certainly around his position and comments at time on God. I couldn’t help but think, what if John Lennon had been introduced to a God of love, would his search and its findings have been any different? Would his demeanor have been any different? There is no doubt of the apparent hate that was displayed towards him and his music early on, much of it from the religious community. If they had known of the difficulty of his childhood, would they have responded any differently? Would their positions, would my perspectives of him be any different if he had experienced a God of love, instead of the judgment and apparent hate that he certainly thought he experienced from the religious community. I don’t know if my own judgment of John Lennon has been fair. I certainly don’t feel so after seeing Nowhere Boy.

I had heard nothing about this British/Canadian venture prior to getting the advance of this DVD to review. Man was I surprised at how good this movie was. It is certainly deserving of the British Awards it has received, and frankly, deserves an American audience, especially since much of Lennon’s life was spent in the United States. Many will see Lennon’s life as a successful, joyous life. I don’t know if I can say that for myself. I see his life as a life of ups and downs, with far too many downs. Despite this though, he kept on at the thing he loved, it is just that in his search for love, I wonder if he was loved as he should have been by many, or if his life ever found full purpose?

There was very little if anything I disliked about this DVD. It has some good special features that that help in understanding John Lennon and the circumstances of his life during this time. This is a movie that isn’t just for fans of The Beatles; it is a wonderful drama for all audiences. Of course for those who are fans, there is an accurate telling of history that is insightful in helping understand the songs, and band that made history. In that regard, you can’t lose. For those individuals, this isn’t just a rental DVD this is get out and buy it to own DVD. It is one you will value to watch again, not just for yourself, but for those fans who don’t know the whole story of John Lennon and the start up of a band that many consider, the most influential band of all time. While that is a matter of debate, I don’t think there will be much debate about Nowhere Boy, this is a great movie.

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