…and the quest to see everything

Nowhere Boy

Normally in films the audience has to wait five minutes to suck us in, but instead Nowhere Boy ‘wows’ us in the beginning with its cinematography, and we have director Sam Taylor-Wood and cinematographer Seamus McGravey to thank for that. This is the fifties, after all. I also kept imagining the film in black and white because of the photographic quality of the shots. Yet colour fits better in capturing the bright, breezy energy of a much younger John Lennon (Aaron Johnson). The film depicts beauty without making its contemplation necessary, since the audience follows a rebellious schoolboy around his hometown at the same time.

Then comes characters with emotional resonance and dimension. John is funny, selfish and gives and gets love unconventionally. The darkness within his cheery mother Julia (Anne-Marie Duff) appears within her first real encounter of her son in years, as Duff’s  impresses with her characterization of Julia as a broken vessel of repression. John’s aunt and guardian Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas) is stern while trying to please a teenager who sometimes takes her for granted. All three powerfully contend with changing allegiances, portraying human irrationality brought on by love without making their characters seem inconsistent.

I also like how they can sometimes miss other characters’ cues. When John’s new friend and band mate Paul McCartney (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) talks about how the latter’s mother ‘would have loved’ his music, he doesn’t at first understand what he’s hinting at. Or when Paul plays the banjo in a solemn gathering at Julia’s house. The script perfectly captures the fragmented relationships. The young (and young at heart like Julia) who have strong feeling and angry impulses, innocent, sometimes ignorant about others which, thankfully, doesn’t stop them from trying to connect with each other.

Lastly, this movie is secretly about the 80’s, or what might have influenced English-speaking culture decades later from the film’s setting, although I don’t really have enough space here to explain that. Of course, it was interesting to watch John dressing up like Elvis or Buddy Holly. The British borrow from American rock ‘n’ roll icons, and as we watch this film we remember that it shows the first stop to John and Paul’s evolution, their sound and look changing within and after their seminal band’s run.

5 responses

  1. KST rocked this movie!

    December 25, 2010 at 3:35 pm

  2. Team Anne-Marie Duff, and Happy Holidays, Jose! 🙂

    December 25, 2010 at 3:40 pm

  3. I am more partial to Kristin, but there’s few moments of the movie as lovely as when the two are together briefly. And what’s more, even though both women are brilliantly I love that they’re not selfish performs who overshadow the still young Johnson. It’s almost as if you can see them helping him be better.

    (And the cinematography is lush.)

    December 26, 2010 at 3:41 pm

  4. rtm

    I adore this movie and you’re right Paolo, the film sucked me right away. The performances were all brilliant, most notably KST and of course Aaron as John. I didn’t know much about Lennon’s life but it was such a poignantly moving story. In the photo you picked, it’s funny to see how puzzled seeing all the women swooning over Elvis. Little did John know he’d be an icon just like him.

    December 27, 2010 at 1:04 pm

  5. John’s waiting for his time to shine. And male gaze acted out on female gaze looking at a male subject. And yes, I’m pretentious 😛

    Speaking of which, Johnson portrays John as someone with little to absolutely no doubts, which is interestingly fun to watch.

    December 27, 2010 at 7:09 pm

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