Nowhere Boy

 
Compelling, mature portrait of a musician as a young man.
  • Review Date: October 4, 2010
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 98 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

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

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.

Sex

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).

Language

Words like "bastard," "d--k," and "f--k" are used with some regularity.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Teens drink in social situations, as well as sometimes with their parents. They're also shown imbibing while getting into trouble.

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.

What's the story?

Based on the life of Beatles founder John Lennon (Aaron Johnson), NOWHERE BOY introduces the iconic musician as a teen who reunites with his estranged mother, Julia (Anne-Marie Duff), the charismatic, emotional, and sometimes unpredictable woman who wound up giving him up, in a fashion, to her comparatively more stable, straightforward sister, Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas). Eager to channel his frustrations elsewhere, John learns to play the banjo from his mother and then transitions to the guitar. Soon, music has become his life, and he pursues it with the same zeal he has for casting off schoolwork and starting a band with his mates, later teaming up with another boy wonder named Paul (Thomas Brodie Sangster). But eventually John discoveres that a nowhere boy still wants answers if he's to become something besides a nowhere man.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about John Lennon's relationship with music. Did he seek out music as a refuge, or was it a way to connect with his mother? What does music mean to you?

  • How does this movie compare to others about artists in their early years? How is their art informed by their past?

  • How does the movie portray teen drinking? What are the consequences for the characters? What would the consequences be in real life?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 8, 2010
DVD release date:January 25, 2011
Cast:Anne-Marie Duff, Kristin Scott Thomas, Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Director:Sam Taylor-Wood
Studio:Weinstein Co.
Genre:Drama
Run time:98 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language and a scene of sexuality

This review of Nowhere Boy was written by

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 17 years old Written bymoviewannabe September 22, 2013
age 17+
 

Glad I saw this

I never anticipated a movie about the rise of the Beatles and the story of how John Lennon became the rhythm guitarist of the Beatles. Personally, if John Lennon was still alive, he'd love to see this movie to narrate his story. Never knew his mother hit by a car. This movie should've been PG-13, but they gave it an R for language.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Teen, 14 years old Written bythundermuffin December 30, 2012
age 12+
 

FANTASTIC MOVIE, some iffy scenes for some kids

This movie has a great message: Keep trying, no matter what anyone tells you, and don't listen to people who tell you that you can't do it. The sky is the limit. You have to be a little bit older to really appreciate this movie. Younger kids who aren't familiar with the Beatles or the time period might be a bit confused. There is a lot of cursing. The F-word, the S-word, all that stuff. But if your kid already knows the words, then I don't think it'll do much harm. I mean, just make sure your kid knows that just because they hear it in a movie doesn't mean they can go around saying those words in real life. I don't think cursing should prevent anyone from seeing the movie. That's just dumb, unless of course your kids are really young and you don't want them hearing that. But if your kid is old enough that he/she knows the word, just emphasize that they aren't allowed to say it. Really, kids hear those words 500 bajillion times a day in school. It shouldn't stop them from watching the movie. Drinking and smoking. Well, yeah, it was the 50's. People didn't know that smoking was bad for you back then. Again, make sure to tell your kid that times were different, and just because they see it in a movie doesn't mean it's okay. Alcohol use isn't made too obvious. It's like Uncle George is drinking "something" out of a canteen thing and then he passes it to his nephew, John, so he can have a little taste. Then he takes it away, saying he's too young to drink too much of that stuff. So yeah, it's little stuff like that. It never really comes right out and says it. As for sex, there's only a little bit. There's a brief, brief scene where John has his hand up a girl's skirt, and then she pulls down his pants and gets on her knees. The scene cuts right there. NOTHING IS SHOWN. Seriously, the only skin shown is their face, hands, and legs. Pretty normal. And from the part where she gets on her knees to when the scene ends is literally half a second. Some younger kids might not even notice. Again, this short scene should not prevent anyone from seeing this great movie. This movie is so fantastic!!!!! I LOVE IT!!!!!! As long as your kid is smart enough to know not to be like "so-and-so in the movie did it, so it's okay". As long as your kid has that common sense (ha! Commonsensemedia.org!), you should be fine.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 14 years old Written bycheese-process May 1, 2011
age 14+
 

Great movie about a great man.

This movie is pretty much about the relationship between him and his family. You can expect some several intense and emotional scenes. In fact, the emotion in the movie makes me not even notice the bad language. But the sex scene was pretty noticeable, but brief.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing

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