Nowhere Boy
 
            This explains a lot.  Those of us who are “of a certain age,” that is, Baby Boomers, all witnessed the incredible musical phenomenon of The Beatles.  For a band that broke up in 1970, their music has had an incredible impact on the culture of our entire adult lives.  Nearly all of us who were teenagers and young adults in the 1960’s were affected, and most of us have spent some time wondering, ever since, just how this musical genius exploded on the scene like a shooting star, and just as quickly fell to earth, and yet their legacy remains like the afterglow of a brilliant light passing through the night sky.
            Yes, part of it was the pure chemistry:  John the poet, Paul the creative musician, George who could make a guitar cry and sing, and Ringo, who became known as the lucky drummer who happened to be at the right place at the right time.  Watching them all after the breakup has given us insight into their particular contributions:  Ringo toured with some unspectacular bands.  George had some significant success on his own, but still seemed to need the inspiration of others to “play off of”----Paul continued to write new tunes, but the lyrics lacked the edge which John brought, and yet, John, after a time of self-imposed exile, then re-appeared, briefly, with less complex music and biting, even caustic lyrics.  So, definitely, the whole was greater than the sum of the parts.  And the chemistry they had together was something more than creative; it was magical, even mystical---they complemented one another, and brought balance to each other, personally as well as musically.
            In “Nowhere Boy,” we see how that balance was brought about, and we discover the particular emotional development of John that required it.  It ends with the earliest days of the band, when they first play together as “The Quarrymen” (actually before Ringo joined them) in the little clubs and dance halls around Liverpool, and just before the formative foray to Hamburg (where they would firmly establish their group identity).  John (Aaron Johnson) grew up with his Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas) and Uncle George (David Threlfall), who had no children of their own.  Mimi was uptight; a rule-keeper, a lover of order, propriety, hard work, higher education, and social manners.  (Sounds like a Presbyterian.)  Uncle George was the one with the sense of humor and the light-heartedness, but he fell over of a heart attack, and Mimi, when a grieving teenage John tries to hug her, says, “There’ll be none of that nonsense.  We just need to carry on, that’s all.”  The perfect British stiff upper lip.  But cold as ice.
            John hardly knows Julia (Anne-Marie Duff), his Mum.  He tries to re-connect with her, after he learns that she lives nearby, but she’s re-married and has two little girls, and her stern husband is singularly unwelcoming of John.  Julia is the one who first introduces him to the guitar, and shares his infatuation of Elvis.  She seems to be a free spirit, but she’s also irresponsible (even flirting shamelessly with John’s own friends).  She says that John’s father left, but John later learns that she deserted him cavalierly, and even has another child from yet another liaison, whom he’s never met.  She just can’t seem to make a lasting commitment to anyone, even her own children.  So John has all this angst:  he doesn’t even remember his father, his mother abandoned him to the care of her sister, who raised him more out of duty than love.  And then Julia is lost to him, and now he truly has no one who really cares about him. 
            Obviously, John brings all that soulful anxiety, and residual anger, and inexperience with deep emotion, and pitiful lack of affection, with him to his music, and Paul, it turns out, also lost his Mum at an early age.  And so they become the emotional support for one another, and that powerful personal connection is part of what drives the genius of their prolific partnership in songwriting.
            “Nowhere Boy” contains some powerful performances, and maintains a palpable relational tension throughout, because that’s the crucible of the making of John Lennon.  This explains a lot.
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas