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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
On the surface, the film is about how John Lennon started the Beatles, which has encouraging messages about sticking to your dreams and taking risks to achieve those dreams. There's also a celebration of artistic and musical pursuits. At the heart of it all, though, is a redefinition of what families are. The movie explores the idea that families are formed by will and circumstance, rather than just by genes, and that complications and grievances can be overcome with love.
Positive Role Models
The John Lennon depicted here is a bit of a rascal: He skips school and causes trouble sometimes. But he's also passionate about his music and works hard and tirelessly to get his dreams on the right course. Two sisters lose sight of their love for each other when they fight over custody of a child, but they patch it up in the end.
Violence & Scariness
A troubled teen knocks his head against a friend's head while slightly inebriated and in emotional turmoil. Parents scream in front of a young child. One character is hit by a car.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Flirting among teens; a married couple makes out. A high-school boy is shown trysting with a classmate, his hand under her hiked skirt; later, she assumes a sexual position (but no sex is shown).
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Words like "bastard," "d--k," and "f--k" are used with some regularity.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens drink in social situations, as well as sometimes with their parents. They're also shown imbibing while getting into trouble.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this drama about the beginnings of musician John Lennon -- and, later, the Beatles -- could appeal to kids who've discovered the iconic band's music. But since it goes beyond a mere "origin story" to tackle weighty themes like parental abandonment and mental illness, it's probably too dark for tweens and younger teens. That said, there's also a lot of compassion and empathy here, especially between characters who have reason to opt for hatred and estrangement, and the movie has a positive, healing message overall. Expect some sexually charged scenes (make-outs, etc.), plus swearing (including "f--k") and underage drinking. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The problem with many biopics is that sometimes you can't see beyond the icon rendered onscreen; not so with Nowhere Boy, director Sam Taylor-Wood's eloquent retelling of Lennon's teen years. There are plenty of cues, of course, to remind viewers that this John Lennon is the iconic musician who founded the Beatles. The characteristic impishness, the swagger, the intensity when he plays guitar -- it's all there. When we discover how fraught his relationship was with his mother, we understand the distress in his song "Julia." (It's his mother's name.) Even the movie's title encapsulates what he may have felt -- lost between two women who loved him and shared the responsibility of raising him, with no father in sight. But Taylor-Wood manages to make viewers forget about the legend and, in turn, care about the person Lennon was before he became what he did.
Johnson is brilliant as Lennon. Though not a facsimile, physically, there's enough of a resemblance in both looks and spirit to make it work. Scott Thomas gives us a layered Mimi, both foreboding and loving. And Duff's Julia is simultaneously maddeningly fragile and winningly likeable. There isn't much direct mention of the Beatles here; in fact, none at all, save for an oblique reference that tantalizes because we know how big the group eventually becomes. We see Paul, Ringo, and George, but not much. In fact, we could've spent more time with them. And it would have been nice to get more material on Lennon's father, too. Still, this journey takes you far from nowhere, right to the heart of a legend in the making.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.