Lennon Naked: Only Skin Deep

John Lennon had a tormented childhood. At the age of 5 his parents made him decide who he wanted to live with – his father Alf who was moving to New Zealand, or his mother Julia who was to remain in Liverpool. John chose Alf, but as his mother was leaving he ran after her and ultimately chose her. His Aunt Mimi then reported his mother to Social Services, so he remained with Mimi instead.

Aged 17 his mother was hit by a car and died near her home. It’s often been said that the absence of his father and the death of his mother at a young age contributed to Lennon’s seeming inability to deal with confrontation and responsibility in his personal life and caused him to undergo therapy in his later years.

The BBC 4 film ‘Lennon Naked’ explores this side of Lennon. It begins with Lennon in his adulthood, continuing where Sam Taylor-Wood’s ‘Nowhere Boy’ left off. Some footage of when Beatlemania began to take hold was interspersed throughout the opening scenes, black and white film of girls screaming wildly and declaring their love while the suitably pleased 20-something musicians are lapping up the attention.

Before long the film delves into the world of Lennon while with his first wife Cynthia. She’s portrayed as a nagging, emotional woman who has doe-eyed look across her face every time she tries to reason with him. Meanwhile Lennon is shown to be moody towards his wife and unhappy with her boxing him in and limiting his creativity. A barrel of laughs this certainly isn’t.

As the film progresses the constant carelessness of the character of Lennon grows tiresome, and the film is awash with some less-than-convincing actors. Paul McCartney, played by Andrew Scott, sounded like he had a comedy voice throughout, his deep nasally tones sounding more Little Britain than Liverpudlian. The slight appearances made by the actors playing George Harrison (Jack Morgan) and Ringo Starr (Craig Cheetham) were blighted by their comedic moustaches and, particularly in the case of Paul, drawn on eyebrows.

The film is exactly as it was described, it was a drama. A drama that gives little insight or enjoyment to your average Beatles fan, the characters seem to have derived some acting advice from the cast of Eastenders. It’s a shame because the lead actor, Christopher Eccleston, who played John Lennon, gave an excellent performance, but the lack of any progression in the character of Lennon and the dreary and constantly unhappy portrayal of him offered no insight or development in his character.

Ultimately all this film taught me, from the soundtrack, is that The Beatles had a song for every occasion.  And right now after watching the film I feel like I Should Have Known Better.

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