Nowhere Boy

Nowhere Boy is a 2009 British biographical drama film about John Lennon's adolescence, his relationships with his aunt Mimi Smith and his mother Julia Lennon, the creation of his first band, the Quarrymen, and its evolution into the Beatles. The film is based on a biography written by Lennon's half-sister Julia Baird.[6] The film received its US release on 8 October 2010, coinciding with that weekend's celebrations of the 70th anniversary of Lennon's birth (9 October 1940).[7]

Nowhere Boy
British release poster
Directed bySam Taylor-Wood
Produced by
Screenplay byMatt Greenhalgh
Based onImagine This: Growing Up With My Brother John Lennon
by Julia Baird
Music byGoldfrapp
CinematographySeamus McGarvey[1]
Edited byLisa Gunning
Distributed by
Release date
  • 29 October 2009 (2009-10-29) (London)
  • 26 December 2009 (2009-12-26) (United Kingdom)
Running time
97 minutes[2]
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget1.2 million[3][4]
Box office$6.6 million[5]


The drama tells the story of John Lennon's teenage years from 1955 to 1960.

John was separated from his mother, Julia Lennon, when he was five. He was brought up by his aunt and uncle, Mimi and George Smith, as their own son. He learns the truth at George's funeral, becomes curious and seeks out his mother. John becomes obsessed with rock 'n' roll music during a visit to Blackpool with Julia.

When John is suspended from school, Julia offers to let him stay at her house during school hours so that Mimi won't discover his suspension. Julia teaches John how to play the banjo. Mimi discovers their arrangement and demands that it stop, but John refuses and moves in with Julia. A week later, John overhears an argument between Julia and her husband, and he decides to return to Mimi.

John tells Mimi that he wants to start a rock 'n' roll band and she buys him a guitar. John organizes some of his friends into a band which he names the Quarrymen. They play their first gig at a village fête, where they play a rendition of "Maggie Mae". After the show, John meets Paul McCartney, who auditions for the band with the song "Twenty Flight Rock". Paul is accepted into the band and he and John begin writing songs together. The Quarrymen soon become very popular. John meets Paul's friend, George Harrison, who also auditions. George is accepted into the band as lead guitarist.

Julia holds a birthday party for John at her home. After the party, John confronts her about his missing father, Alf Lennon, and asks why Julia gave him up. He also confronts Mimi, who tells him that Julia cheated on Alf and refused to work on the marriage. Alf allowed 5-year-old John to decide whom he wanted to live with, and John chose his father. Alf planned to move with John to New Zealand, but when Julia abandoned the family, John was torn by his devotion to his mother. Without the time or money to legally determine custody, Mimi assumed custodianship of John and raised him as her son. John is upset by this revelation, and leaves in anger.

John moves out to live on his own. Over time, John accepts his past and Julia and Mimi become friendly. When Julia is hit and killed by a car, however, John is consumed by an anger that he cannot overcome. Two years later, he asks Mimi for his passport so that he can travel to Hamburg with his newly formed band, The Beatles. Mimi asks John to call her as soon as he arrives in Hamburg. The film ends with the caption, "John phoned Mimi as soon as he arrived in Hamburg...and every week thereafter for the rest of his life."



The film was the directorial debut of conceptual artist/photographer Sam Taylor-Johnson.[8] The screenplay was written by Matt Greenhalgh, who also wrote the Joy Division film Control. It was shot on location in Liverpool, the last house on the right at the end of Sussex Road in Ickenham, Middlesex and at Ealing Studios in West London.[8][9] Some of the interior school scenes were filmed at Sacred Heart Catholic College in Crosby. Following the announcement of the film, initial media accounts indicated that it would be based on the book Imagine This: Growing Up With My Brother John Lennon by Lennon's half sister Julia Baird.[3] However, the credits for the completed film do not reference either the book or Baird, with sole writing credit accorded to screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh. The director consulted both Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono about the script, with both firmly correcting the depiction of Mimi to be less strict and more loving of John.[10]

The film received a National Lottery funding of £1.2 million from the UK Film Council Premier Fund, with an additional £35,500 from its Development Fund to create the script.[3][4] The film also received a grant from Film4 (the film division of Channel 4).[8]


The film premiered in the UK on 26 December 2009.[11] Its US release was on 8 October 2010, coinciding with that weekend's celebrations of the 70th anniversary of Lennon's birth.[12][13]

HanWay Films represented worldwide sales. Distributor Icon Entertainment International took the rights for the United Kingdom and Australia. Mars Distribution acquired the rights for France.[8] The Weinstein Company distributed the film in the United States, Germany and Latin America.

Following the release, McCartney commented on his depiction in the film. Referring to a scene in which Lennon punches him, McCartney stated that such a fight never actually happened, "but my character is kind of cool in the film so I don't mind being punched out. I told the film director Sam (Taylor-Wood) all of that but she said, 'Yeah, but Paul, it's just a film.'"[14]

Festival screenings

The film had its world premiere on 29 October 2009 at the closing night of the London Film Festival.[11] The film was screened at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival on 27 January.[9][15] It screened again at the Maui Film Festival in Wailea, Hawaii, on 18 June 2010, the Traverse City Film Festival in Traverse City, Michigan on 27 July 2010, and at The Fest For Beatles Fans convention in Chicago on 14 August 2010.


Critical reception

The film has received mostly positive reviews from film critics. Based on 135 reviews, it currently holds an 80% "Certified Fresh" rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. The site's critical consensus of the film is: "Don't expect any musical insights, but this look at John Lennon's early life benefits from its restrained, low-key approach and some fine acting from Aaron Johnson."[16]


Nowhere Boy was nominated for four British Academy Film Awards: Outstanding British Film, Best Supporting Actress (one each for Anne-Marie Duff and Kristin Scott Thomas), and Outstanding Debut by a British director (Sam Taylor-Wood).[17] The film also won the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature at the San Diego Film Festival in 2010.[18]


Nowhere Boy: Music from and inspired by the Motion Picture
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
Released14 December 2009
GenreRock and roll
LabelSony music

The soundtrack features several of the songs played by The Quarrymen at the time depicted in the film. New recordings were made featuring performances by Johnson and the Nowhere Boys.[19] Sangster was able to play the guitar before landing his role, but, as he is right-handed, learned how to play left-handed, à la McCartney.[1] Producers negotiated with Yoko Ono for the rights to use Lennon's song "Mother" in the film.[1] In addition to the featured songs, British electronica duo Goldfrapp provide the film's instrumental score.[20] The soundtrack was released digitally on 11 December 2009 and in stores as a two-disc album by Sony Music Entertainment on 29 December 2009.

Disc 1 contains songs featured in the film, and Disc 2 is made up of rock and roll classics that inspired the film and Lennon himself.[21]


  1. Bamigboye, Baz (13 February 2009). "When it comes to the young Beatles, all you need is Thomas". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 5 March 2009.
  2. "NOWHERE BOY (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 12 November 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  3. "Lennon childhood film gets grant". BBC News website. 18 July 2008. Retrieved 5 March 2009.
  4. "Urban western Harry Brown, Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy and psychological thriller 1939 receive UKFC Lottery funding". UK Film Council. 10 February 2009. Archived from the original on 9 June 2011. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  5. "Nowhere Boy (2010)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  6. Adetunji, Jo (18 July 2008). "Imagine John Lennon's childhood: Nowhere Boy heads for big screen". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 5 March 2009.
  7. "Nowhere Boy NEW! Official USA Trailer (2010)". YouTube. 2 July 2010. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
  8. Jaafar, Ali (9 January 2009). "Kristin Scott Thomas joins 'Nowhere'". Variety. Retrieved 5 March 2009.
  9. Kay, Jeremy (16 March 2009). "Weinsteins take US, Latin America, Germany on Nowhere Boy". Emap Media. Retrieved 16 March 2009.
  10. Breznican, Anthony (29 January 2010). "Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono help filmmakers find 'Nowhere Boy'". USA Today. Retrieved 25 January 2012.
  11. Staff (3 August 2009). "Sam Taylor-Wood's Nowhere Boy to close London Film Festival". Screen International. Emap Media. Retrieved 3 August 2009.
  12. "Nowhere Boy US". The Playlist. 24 March 2010. Retrieved 24 March 2010.
  13. Haber, Dave (26 April 2010). "Fans come together for new John Lennon film". Retrieved 4 July 2010.
  14. Swift, Jacqui (24 June 2010). "I like Obama... and he's right to have a go at us for polluting his country". The Sun. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  15. Coll, Kevin (3 December 2009). "Nowhere Boy, The Runaways and The Company Men All to Premiere At 2010 Sundance Film Festival Out-Of-Competition". Fused Film. Archived from the original on 8 December 2009. Retrieved 5 December 2009.
  16. "Nowhere Boy". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  17. "John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy fails to win in BAFTAs". Liverpool Echo. 22 February 2010. Retrieved 25 February 2010.
  18. "Award Winners". 29 April 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  19. Nowhere Boy: Original Soundtrack
  20. Goldfrapp, Allison (18 September 2009). "hello nowhere boy x". Archived from the original on 22 April 2010. Retrieved 18 September 2009.
  21. Quantick, David. "BBC – Music – Review of Various Artists – Nowhere Boy OST".
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