Nowhere Boy, English art star Sam Taylor-Woods oddly straightforward biopic about the juvenile John Lennon, concludes, as well it should, with the singers haunting, incantatory primal scream, Mother. But instead of tying a bow on the films portrait of familial abandonment, Lennons guttural, air-cleaving quaver puts everything that precedes it to shame. Lacking the songs raw emotive power, Taylor-Woods debut feature is a rote coming-of-age tableau that churns through stations of anger, inspiration, reconciliation, McCartney and Harrison. Raised in suburban Liverpool by his prim Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas), teenage John (Aaron Johnson) discovers that his absent birth mum, Julia (Anne-Marie Duff), has been raising a separate family right around the corner. Feeling misunderstood in one home and unwanted in the other, John channels frustration through music and flying fists.
Taylor-Wood dubiously color-codes a mother/whore tug-of-war by dressing sexless brunette Scott Thomas in drab brown tones, while the liberated, redheaded Duff dons bright patterned dresses (and suggestively smooches her son with wet crimson lips). Meanwhile, dreamboat Johnson is saddled with a character whose every utterance and sartorial choice rings with the promise of legend. Why couldnt God make me Elvis? the rocker-in-training asks Julia, who teleports an answer from the future: Because he was saving you for John Lennon. Yet not even God could save the future Beatles adolescent heartbreak from downgrading to a tasteful, toe-tapping period drama.
Oct. 15-21, 2010
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