A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
John Lennon wrote the song “Julia” about his mother, and it is a strangely objective love song, as if about a real girlfriend and not a mom. Perhaps that's how he thought of her. When he was very young, he came under the care of his Aunt Mimi, whom he regarded as his mother, and in the telling of “Nowhere Boy,” he didn't see Julia again until the day of his uncle's funeral. The film is co-written by Julia Baird, his half-sister, who must be presumed to have good information.
“Julia” is a song of longing and regret, written some years after Julia's sudden death. Their relationship was close and did not have the time to grow old. There's a video online of Sean Lennon singing it, in front of back-projected photographs of his father and Julia, and also of his mother, Yoko Ono. “This song is for my mother,” he says, and as he sings it, he sounds eerily like his father, in intonation, arrangement, emotion. Perhaps it is for both his parents. He was young when he lost John, and John was young when he lost Julia. Both memories are of interrupted love.
The young Lennon (Aaron Johnson) in “Nowhere Boy” is cocky and vulnerable. He was raised in an ordinary lower-working-class home, not far from Strawberry Fields in Liverpool, by an aunt (Kristin Scott Thomas) who loved him but was reserved and cool. She and her husband had taken the child in after her younger, prettier sister proved incapable of caring for him; John learns the details of his adoption late in the film. He knew Mimi was not his mother, but had no idea that all during his childhood, Julia lived only a few blocks away.
She must have seen him often, if he had only known it. Did she stay away out of respect for Mimi? He glimpses her at the funeral of his uncle and instinctively knows who she is. When he discovers where she lives, he knocks on her door, and she greets him with instant, embracing love; we get the sense that she was a woman quick to love, impulsive, more spontaneous than the responsible Mimi. Because John and Julia are essentially strangers, their relationship has elements of unrealized romance. There is the tension between joy and sadness we often feel in Lennon's songs, and perhaps we see some of the origins of his place in the flow of British Romanticism.