Who's In It: Aaron Johnson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Anne-Marie Duff, David Morrissey, David Threlfall, Ophelia Lovibond, Thomas Brodie Sangster, Josh Bolt, Sam Bell
The Basics: Seventeen-year-old John Lennon (Aaron Johnson) is an aimless Liverpudlian who writes poetry in his down time and routinely ditches school. You might say that he's a dreamer -- or a hooligan and a delinquent, even -- but what he's not is a rock star. At least, not until his beloved uncle dies and he tracks down the mother who abandoned him (Anne-Marie Duff), a manic-depressive former floozie who opens John's eyes to the sexy new world of rock 'n' roll. Soon enough John starts his own band and meets some kids named Paul and George, but family secrets and his own conflicted mommy issues threaten to curtail the incredible life to come.
What's The Deal: Twenty-year-old British actor Aaron Johnson (Kick-Ass) may not physically resemble John Lennon, but his exquisite beauty and sensitivity suggest the spirit of the artist Lennon would become. Mimicry, anyhow, isn't what writer-director Sam Taylor-Wood is after; rather, Nowhere Boy aims to explore the turbulent emotional life of the young John and the lasting effect that his late connection to his mother, Julia (played wonderfully by Anne-Marie Duff), and her sister, Lennon's aunt and guardian Mimi (the excellently icy Kristen Scott Thomas), had on the entirety of his life. Minus the music it would be a still-moving period tale of a boy torn between two maternal figures, beholden to and yet resentful of both, bearing the invisible psychological burdens of childhood abandonment and bad parenting. That such a child grew up to be one of the most important artists of his generation is both the strangest truth and the greatest triumph illuminated in this real life story.
Featuring A Stand-Out Turn By: Anne-Marie Duff (Notes on a Scandal, The Last Station), who last year earned a BAFTA nomination for her role as Lennon's volatile mother. As the fragile Julia, Duff is alternately childlike and sensual; she's a bad mother, but according to the film she's also the one responsible for getting John interested in music -- and therefore, indirectly responsible for the formation of the Beatles.
Also Worth Checking Out For: The music. Nowhere Boy's soundtrack mixes vintage period rock and R&B tracks, newly recorded Quarrymen songs performed by Aaron Johnson and his onscreen Paul McCartney, Thomas Brodie Sangster, and a lush, haunting score by Brit electronica duo Goldfrapp. Taylor-Wood packs an additional emotional punch by saving the only actual Lennon track for the film's end credits: "Mother," the 1970 lamentation dedicated to the parents Lennon lost in his youth.