When you think of a movie about the making of a music legend, a tortured childhood inevitably comes to mind. I think of Ray Charles or Johnny Cash: lost loved ones and cruel, heartless parents. At first blush the childhood of John Lennon seems quite the opposite. Yes, he lives with his aunt and uncle, but they are available, supportive people. It isn’t until later that you realize John Lennon’s story may be the most dysfunctional one of all.
Our story begins with John (Aaron Johnson), an arrogant, precocious teenager living with his Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas) and Uncle George (David Threlfall) in a cozy, if Spartan, home in Liverpool. George is the fun, musical pal and Mimi is the enforcer, so when George dies suddenly, the balance in the home is askew. That is when John goes to find his mother. Turns out Julia (Anne-Marie Duff) has lived just across town for most of John’s life. Julia is vivacious, beautiful, talented and living with a scorching case of undiagnosed bipolar disorder.
On one of John and Julia’s many outings they see newsreel footage of Elvis Presley and that’s when John decides he wants to start a band. The line of the movie is when Lennon curses the sky and says, Why couldn’t God have made me Elvis Presley, and his mother replies, Because he was saving you for John Lennon. The acting is outstanding: All the young Beatles are spot-on, and Kristin Scott Thomas is wonderful as the complicated Mimi. If you are not a Beatles fan, the film may leave you wanting, but if you are, it’s a fascinating glimpse into the making of an icon.