Nowhere Boy

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Nowhere Boy Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Compelling, mature portrait of a musician as a young man.
  • R
  • 2010
  • 98 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 17 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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 & Representations

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.


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.


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).


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

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMrs2016 February 15, 2019

Sexual content worse than reviewed

I only watched about 30 minutes of this movie, or got turned off when the "high schooler has a tryst with a classmate" scene came on. Per Common Sense... Continue reading
Parent of a 17-year-old Written bysap October 10, 2010
Teen, 14 years old Written bythundermuffin December 30, 2012

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... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bydr.moriartemisha November 10, 2014

Sad, beautiful, funny and memorable

I loved this movie. I highly recommend it for music fans, hot-guy appreciators, indies and people looking for an interesting and sad movie to watch. Set in the... Continue reading

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?

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

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