Who's In It: Aaron Johnson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Thomas Sangster, Anne-Marie Duff, David Morrissey
The Basics: John Lennon at age 15 was a cocky, restless, angry kid who also suffered from some pretty significant abandonment issues. You would too if you discovered that the only reason you were living with your rigidly proper aunt was because no one had bothered to tell you that your floozy mother was too busy partying and badly raising even more kids just a few blocks away. You'd probably wind up joining a rebellious young band yourself. It just wouldn't be as good as The Beatles.
What's The Deal: You'd think an artist as iconoclastic as John Lennon would merit a less standard-issue biopic. Because if you take away the fact that it's about John Lennon, all you're left with is a somewhat interesting story about a kid with a messed up family who learns, in a smallish way, how to deal with the anxiety that sort of thing causes in a child. It's a perfectly adequate movie about that subject, and Kick-Ass star Aaron Johnson is emotionally on point every step of the way. So is Kristin Scott Thomas as a surrogate parent/guardian who's had most of her blood drained into a separate container. The content is there but the form is a Xerox copy of every celebrity coming-of-age tale you've heard and seen before.
No, It's Not A Musical: You get Aaron Johnson doing a decent John Lennon accent, you get teen Paul McCartney and George Harrison, a few moments of the Cavern Club and The Quarrymen, but that's it. If you're waiting for John Lennon's music to hit your ears you'll wait until the credits.
Biggest Surprise: Director Sam Taylor-Wood comes from the art world, specifically she was part of the Young British Artist movement of the 1990s along with people like Damien Hirst. And maybe in the future, if she makes more features, they'll feel less timid and bland than this one (the exception being her willingness to allow for a strange sort of sexual tension between Lennon and his birth mother). But for now you're watching someone trying to force themselves into a readymade box and finding out it doesn't fit that well.