Lennon Naked Review: Magical Mystery Drama
LENNON NAKED: Wednesday 23rd June, BBC4, 9.30pm ALERT ME
Despite having been a Beatles fan since the moment I first listened to music, rarely have I considered deeply the humans behind the songs. All too often, the flaws and fallibility of the icons responsible for the things we love are forgotten in an unquestioning belief of their untouchable heroicness.
Lennon Naked charts the life of one of the most influential figures we have ever known at a time when his band were creating some their best music. From the death of his beloved manager in 1967, to disillusionment with The Beatles, and his relationship with Yoko Ono as well as a departure to New York in 1971, we get a brilliantly crafted and darkly honest portrayal of one of the greatest artists in music history.
Ex-Doctor Who star Christopher Eccleston is given the gargantuan task of re-creating a figure many are so familiar with. Indeed, although his Lennon takes a bit of getting used to, we end up utterly convinced by the rendering of the acerbic singer in accent, manner and appearance.
We begin with manager Brian and John in 1964, negotiating a meeting with Lennon’s previously absent father. What ensues is a disillusionment with the music industry and the U.K, along with a deep love for Yoko Ono’s social and artistic isolation. Over time, this has materialised from key elements of the singer’s personality, cracking under the burden of genius and damaging memories of childhood parental issues.
What becomes apparent very quickly is how gritty the representation of Lennon is. He can never seem to shake his personal anguish, and although we get snippets of the joys of being a famous rock star, most of the film is made up of his bitterness towards his father and the Beatles, and his own insecurities. As well as the image of him being surprisingly arresting and honest – the way the drama is put together is equally masterful. One particular sequence encapsulates Lennon in these years. A scene of his distant relationship with his son bleeds into a tense meeting at Apple HQ, followed by Lennon fleeing with Yoko to strip off in their flat, convincingly re-creating the controversial ‘Two Virgin’s’ album cover. Although there is a lot of material and time covered, it is fluidly balanced in the 90 minutes.
As we move closer and closer to Lennon’s eventual departure from the U.K – we realise just how troubled and destructive this wonderful musician was. His treatment of his wife Cynthia, for example, is upsetting and deplorable. When he finally cruelly pushes his last friend away – life long school pal Pete – we question whether John is likeable at all.
The drama is well bolstered, but not reliant, on the haunting sounds of genuine Beatles music and grainy footage of the band and Lennon himself. It is both revealing and sad, whilst adding new and extremely real meaning to songs you thought you knew well.
Perhaps most poignant is the closing question, fired to Lennon by a journalist as he leaves for America, ‘What about your son?’ Clearly, he never learned from his own damaging pain as a child.