Alex's Sundance 2010 Review: Sam Taylor Wood's Nowhere Boy
by Alex Billington
October 8, 2010
I've found another personal favorite film of this fest. I was first introduced to British director Sam Taylor Wood in 2008 when I saw her short film Love You More at the Telluride Film Festival. I instantly fell in love with it and have been anxiously awaiting Nowhere Boy, which is her first feature film about the early days of John Lennon and Paul McCartney from The Beatles. I'm a big fan of The Beatles and was interested in learning more about their formation and early days, and while Nowhere Boy isn't as much about the band as it is Lennon's younger years, it's still an incredibly well-directed film that most Beatles fans will enjoy.
In Nowhere Boy, we get a look at the early teenage years of Beatles founder John Lennon (played superbly by Aaron Johnson), which is when he lived with his Aunt Mimi Smith (played by Kristin Scott Thomas) and first met and spent time with his real mother Julia Lennon (played by Anne-Marie Duff). We do also get to see some of the story surrounding the formation of the band with his schoolfriends, when they were called The Quarrymen, and both Paul McCartney and George Harrison's eventual introduction. It ends with them leaving to go to Hamburg, Germany, which is where most people are then familiar with The Beatles' history.
While we don't get to hear a lot of their music (most likely because they couldn't get the rights - they don't even say the name "The Beatles" once), the film is so masterfully directed, beautifully shot, and well acted, that I easily became wrapped up in the story and the characters. Sam Taylor Wood is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors and I think she has a very bright future ahead of her. She has a wonderful style and just brings so much to each scene, from the performances to the composition. After seeing numerous films at Sundance that have been just plain bad, it was refreshing and exciting to see one that's so well directed.
Overall, I really enjoyed Nowhere Boy, mainly due to the performances. While Aaron Johnson may not look exactly like Lennon, his performance is stellar. I was immensely impressed with Johnson and his bandmate Paul McCartney, who is played by former Love Actually star Thomas Sangster, even though he doesn't show up until about halfway through it. If you're a fan of The Beatles in any capacity, I suggest you make an effort to see this. And even if you're not a fan, it's worth seeing, if only to admire Sam Taylor Wood's great work.
Alex's Sundance Rating: 8 out of 10