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Film Review: "Nowhere Boy"

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Screen shot of the character of John Lennon, who is played by Aaron Johnson in the British-Canadian biopic "Nowhere Boy"

The film tells the story of John Lennon's childhood and, ultimately, what shaped him into the rock and roll legend that he later became. Through the relationship Lennon had with his mother, Julia Lennon, an emotional drama rife with personal conflict unfolds.

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Aaron Johnson, who plays Lennon, impeccably breathes life into the character bringing a deft blend of adolescence and vulnerability into his performance. The viewer immediately understands the weight of the dilemma Lennon faced as he began to uncover, when he was a teenager, the reality that his mother (Anne Marie-Duff) gave him up to his Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas).

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The inspiration that rock and roll had on him provides a key element to the story too. Lennon is not meant to discover his mother was living nearby the house he lived in with his aunt. Yet, he finds her and, through her, he discovers music that is being released, styles far different from classical and jazz music.

Lennon and his mother go to see Elvis Presley at a movie theater. It's the Fifties and the theater crowd goes wild at the sight of the rising rock n' roll star. The enthusiasm infects Lennon leading him to wish he could have been Elvis, to which his mother responds that he is not Elvis because he was meant to be John Lennon.

The line plants the seed in Lennon's heart leading him to redefine his look and adopt a hairstyle similar to Elvis Presley. He begins to go about the city fooling around, picking up chicks, and stealing vinyl records from local record stores. He steals forty-fives from a shop and they all wind up being good-for-nothing classical records. The episode would have been all for naught if it wasn't for the fact that a man stops him and argues the music isn't so bad and Lennon trades him for a Screamin' Jay Hawkins record the man recently got his hands on.

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The forty-five is "I Put a Spell on You" and the scene, where Lennon sits watching his mother take in the music while smoking, has a cinematic quality to it that makes one wonder if Lennon was ever haunted by an Oedipal complex. His mother takes on a luring and dangerous quality; in fact, she is the person in his life who instills the fantasy of being a rock and roll star, which his Aunt Mimi does not approve. This means he is no longer getting his education. She also worries about how his mother could disappoint him because she has let him down before.

His mother is the one who gives him his guitar. Lennon gets into a spat with Aunt Mimi and wishes to move in with his mother. His mother remarried. She has a husband who does not want Lennon to live in his house with his mother (and her husband's issue with Lennon living with her appear similar to Aunt Mimi's in some respects). In that sense, she becomes a "bad" mother, one that will never satisfy Lennon's aggressive fantasy to return to her

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for

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