No shattering revelations dot this look at the pre-Beatles John Lennon growing up in working-class Liverpool. What conceptual-artist-turned-director Sam Taylor-Wood vividly creates, from a script by Matt Greenhalgh (adapting the memoir of Lennon's half sister), is an intimate love triangle involving John (Kick-Ass star Aaron Johnson), Julia (Anne-Marie Duff), the free-spirited mother who gave him up, and Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas), the hard-nosed aunt who took him in. Johnson doesn't resemble, much less embody, Lennon, but he does catch his distinctive glint of mischief tinged with pain. Duff and Scott Thomas are both exceptional, revealing how John's relationship with these two clashing sisters marked his character. Nowhere Boy is smart enough not to spell it all out. You can hear it in Lennon's music, which plays in your head as the movie works its subtle magic.