It’s hard not to look at every moment of a man’s life and try to pinpoint the pivotal events.  It’s hard not to sentimentalize and romanticize every word, every turn of event, every single nuance.

“Nowhere Boy” does not romanticize;  it even plays down certain monumental events, such as the first time John Lennon meets Paul McCartney.  What does come through sharply is his tumultuous home life as a teen.  John is a bit of a scamp, stealing records and free rides on double-decker buses, but he’s no worse than any other teenaged boy.  The emphasis is on the two women in his life, one your standard, uptight Brit who’d rather die than show emotion, and the other a much less restrained flirt who loves rock ‘n rollers.

John reunites with his mother Julia, whom he hasn’t seen since he was 5, and who, unbeknownst to him, has been living down the block for the past decade.  Julia is an outright flirt:  in some scenes her behavior is so seductive (even towards John) that I felt not just a little uneasy.  John seems uneasy too, yet also glad to have the attentions of a mother he really doesn’t know.  But he’s not dim and quickly catches on when Julia flirts with his (young) band members, in particular the young Paul.

Aside from the wrenching emotional component, there are bits and pieces of John’s early musical life.  His mum teaches him guitar and he puts together a band. John is exposed to rock and roll, Elvis, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.  My favorite line is John complaining that God didn’t make him Elvis; his mother says ‘He was saving you for John Lennon.’  His mother never knew the success he became due to a fatal car accident (which reminded me, oddly enough, of Lolita), but she certainly encouraged him in music and supported him, even when Aunt Mimi didn’t.  Maybe it was the balance between the two women that he needed.

The beginning scenes of the film are edited sharply; very short scenes that cut quickly and move on to the next.  Scenes lengthen as the movie progresses, and the emotions are pretty raw.  This is a short, 90-minute slice of his life that temporarily delves into serious issues.  There are some hints as to what was coming musically, but this film really focuses on his relationships with mother and aunt, and their relationships with each other.

Only one complaint with this film:  there is one scene that feels trite and almost as if it would lead to the shiny-happy-hollywood film ending (but thank fuck did not):  John reminds Aunt Mimi that she and Julia are sisters and she needed to remember that.  Aunt Mimi and Julia do seem to make amends and start spending time together.  John sees them together in one such scene and smiles to himself.  As if all life’s problems are that easily resolved, eh?   But then, this is all immediately prior to Julia’s getting gunned down by a speeding car.  So.

All in all, a good little film.  And Kristin Scott Thomas as Aunt Mimi was delightful.