DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Sam Taylor-Wood
Aaron Johnson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Thomas Brodie Sangster, David Threlfall, Josh Bolt, Ophelia Lovibond, Anne-Marie Duff, James Johnson, David Morrissey
Writing Credits:
Julia Baird (memoir), Matt Greenhalgh

The Extraordinary Untold Story Of John Lennon.

Imagine ... John Lennon's childhood. Liverpool, 1955: a smart and troubled fifteen-year-old is hungry for experience. In a family full of secrets, two incredible women clash over John (Aaron Johnson): Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas), the buttoned-up aunt who raised him, and Julia (Anne-Marie Duff), the prodigal mother. Yearning for a normal family, John escapes into the new and exciting world of rock 'n' roll where his fledgling genius finds a kindred spirit in the teenage Paul McCartney (Thomas Brodie Sangster). Just as John begins his new life, tragedy strikes. But a resilient young man finds his voice - and an icon explodes into the world.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$52.749 thousand on 4 screens.
Domestic Gross
$1.445 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 98 min.
Price: $30.95
Release Date: 1/25/2011

• Deleted Scenes
• “The Making of Nowhere Boy” Featurette
• “Nowhere Boy: The Untold Story of John Lennon and the Creation of the Beatles” Featurette
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Nowhere Boy [Blu-Ray] (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 1, 2011)

Two recent docu-dramas about John Lennon concentrated on distinctly different periods of his life. Lennon Naked started in 1964 and finished in 1971, while Nowhere Boy focuses on Lennon’s teenage years. Given that I thought Naked was awful, I held out hopes Boy might turn into something more satisfying.

Boy opens in 1955 and finds nearly 15-year-old John (Aaron Johnson) living with his Uncle George (David Threlfall) and Aunt Mimi (Kristen Scott Thomas). John initially came to them as a small child, and though he occasionally spent time with his father Alf (Colin Tierney) and mother Julia (Anne-Marie Duff), George and Mimi raised him.

At the film’s start, George literally falls over dead, so Mimi and John find themselves suddenly alone. At George’s funeral, Julia makes a brief appearance, and John’s cousin Stan (James Johnson) soon shows him where she lives.

This sets up a surreptitious reunion, as Julia doesn’t want the stern Mimi to know that she and John are spending time together. The vivacious Julia gives John the emotional gratification the repressed Mimi can’t, but she lacks his aunt’s consistency and level-headedness. We follow John’s relationships with both maternal figures as well as his development as a musician – and his eventual meeting with a younger Liverpudlian named Paul McCartney (Thomas Brodie Sangster).

One of this set’s bonus features refers to the film as the “untold story of John Lennon and the creation of the Beatles”. In truth, there’s no such thing as an “untold story” in Beatle Land. It’s next to impossible to find any Fab stone left unturned, and that’s the case for tales of the guys’ formative years. Indeed, of all four Beatles, Lennon’s formative years have received the most attention; even moderately casual fans know the names “Mimi” and “Julia”, and knowledge of how Lennon and McCartney met is essentially Beatles 101.

So fans shouldn’t expect revelations from Nowhere Boy, as it includes none. However, it does provide an effective re-enactment of this part of Lennon’s life – a surprisingly good take, I must admit. I tend to be tough on rock docudramas, probably because subject matter is nearer and dearer to my heart than painting would be, for instance. The music means so much to me that I find myself put off by liberties.

We definitely those in Nowhere, so you shouldn’t anticipate a flick that holds totally accurate. Some of these are bigger than others, but none significantly harm the film, largely because it feels emotionally accurate. Even when I know the facts are wrong, I still buy into the movie because it comes across as a representative portrayal of its subjects.

It does take a while to truly suspend disbelief, though, partly because Johnson and the others who play Beatles look and sound little like the real guys. (The actual McCartney playfully mock whined that he was offended Sangster was shorter than Johnson.) I don’t mind the casting of non-lookalikes, though, as I think it’s more important for the film to find skilled performers, not just clones.

And it succeeds in that regard, as all involved offer nice portrayals of their characters. It takes Johnson a while to really adapt to the part – or maybe I just needed a while to get used to him – but before long, he comes across as a wholly believable Lennon. He doesn’t offer a simple impression; instead, he develops a character who leaves us with the impression that he could’ve been John. Of course, I don’t pretend to know who Lennon really was, but I can buy the person Johnson plays, and that’s an impressive achievement.

Shocking realization: Johnson is actually a months younger than Sangster, even though the latter looks like he’s easily four or five years the former’s junior. This works fine in the film, though, as McCartney looked even younger than he was at the time. I like that Sangster tosses in a few small McCartney-esque gestures, too; he doesn’t overplay these, but they add a bit of realism to the role.

Of all the actors, Thomas probably offers the best work. She gets a challenging role; Mimi could easily be little more than a cardboard stereotype of an emotionally detached woman. Thomas gives the character layers that the part needs; these allow us to see the way she cares for John even when she comes across as cold and unfeeling. It’s a strong performance.

Even though it portrays material that’s been beaten to death by Beatles historians, Nowhere Boy makes it feel fresh. This turns into an entertaining and emotional look at the band’s formative years.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus D+

Nowhere Boy appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. While not the most dynamic Blu-ray I’ve seen, the image satisfied.

For the most part, sharpness appeared strong. However, fine detail was slightly lacking in some wide shots. Although these were minor instances, they meant that the delineation wasn’t quite as consistent as I’d like. I noticed no issues with shimmering or jagged edges, and edge haloes weren’t a factor. Source flaws remained absent.

As one might expect from a period flick like this, Nowhere Boy provided a subdued palette. Colors tended toward a desaturated bent, but they seemed clear and well-developed within those constraints. Blacks showed good depth and darkness, while shadows were solid. I didn’t think highly enough of the image to merit “A”-level consideration, but I felt pleased with what I saw.

Given the film’s character scope, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Nowhere Boy didn’t boast a great deal of dynamic material. Nonetheless, it had its moments. Of course, we got a lot of music, and those elements spread to the various speakers in a satisfying manner. Otherwise, we stayed with environmental elements; Lennon’s fantasies of fame offered immersive cheering, and various gigs opened things up in a satisfying way.

Audio quality was quite good. Speech was natural and concise, as the lines lacked noticeable concerns. Music was a strong aspect of the mix. The movie featured lots of different musical performances, and these demonstrated solid heft and clarity. Effects didn’t have a ton to do, but they were full and clear; the occasional louder elements showed positive punch as well. While nothing here impressed a ton, the track was good enough for a “B-“.

Only a handful of extras show up here. The Making of Nowhere Boy goes for seven minutes, 45 seconds and includes remarks from producer Robert Bernstein, screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh, director Sam Taylor-Wood, and actors Aaron Johnson, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Anne-Marie Duff. The show looks at the movie’s development, story and script, cast, characters and performances. Only a few minor thoughts about the film emerge here; I can’t say it tells us much of interest.

For the 13-minute, 10-second Nowhere Boy: The Untold Story of John Lennon and the Creation of the Beatles, we hear from Taylor-Wood, Johnson, Yoko Ono, Thomas, musician Steven Van Zandt, Beatles historian Martin Lewis, and actor Thomas Brodie Sangster. “Creation” looks at aspects of the movie’s story and characters, cast and performances, and what Taylor-Wood brought to the film. This one’s a little more informative than “Making”, but not by much; it’s another promotional piece that intends to sell the movie to us.

Two Deleted Scenes appear. We find “John and Julia” (2:32) and “A Quick Chat” (1:23). The first looks at John’s attempts to find out about his past, and it accentuates the awkward sexual tension between the two; the finished film already highlights both of those topics enough, so this scene would’ve felt redundant. “Chat” shows more of John’s inner pain, as he attempts to get comfort from a semi-girlfriend. It’s also decent, but I think the movie already shows us enough of John’s feelings.

The disc opens with ads for Welcome to the Rileys, Justified, and Get Low. These also appear under Previews, but we don’t find a trailer for Nowhere Boy itself.

Given how many bad rock biographies exist, I went into Nowhere Boy with some trepidation. To my relief, it ended up as a pretty rich and well-made effort that gave us an emotionally resonant take on John Lennon’s teen years and the early days of the Beatles. The Blu-ray delivers very good picture and acceptable audio but skimps on supplements. I’d like more behind the scenes materials, but the movie itself still merits a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 4
2 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main