The artist Sam Taylor-Wood's pre-Fab Four drama is pretty conventional, forgoing the more visually arresting techniques used by fellow artist Steve McQueen on Hunger, and the artistic flair employed by the likes of Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher) and Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank).
However, it's still never less than compelling.
The biopic focuses on John Lennon's brash teenage delinquent – he thrusts smutty material in front of old ladies, steals records, rides on the top of buses and is told by his headmaster that he's "going nowhere" – and his tangled relationship with his frosty adoptive mother Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas) and his flighty, unhinged birth mum Julia (Anne-Marie Duff), who abandoned him in infancy.
Scott Thomas and Duff are both outstanding as the sisters, vying for the boorish Lennon's attention. Mimi buys him his first guitar, while Julia teaches him how to play the banjo and tells him the meaning of rock'n'roll – "Sex". As for Aaron Johnson as Lennon? Well, he captures the great man's charisma, but his voice lacks that deeply sardonic tone, his lips aren't pursed enough and his eyes are a little too bright-eyed. And poor Paul McCartney (played by Thomas Sangster) again gets a raw deal, coming across as weasly and manipulative. And the music? Sadly, there's no Beatles, not even "Julia", but lots of fine rock'n'roll.
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