The Hours and Times Review

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In April 1963, The Beatles's manager, Brian Epstein takes John Lennon to Barcelona in the hope of seducing him.


According to some music historians, John Lennon was the main reason that Brian Epstein left the security of his NEMS record shop in Liverpool's Whitechapel and offered to manage The Beatles. Rumours have long abounded about the exact nature of the relationship between the gay, Jewish bourgeois and the macho, lower middle-class rebel and Christopher Münch's monochrome study explores the mutual fascination that existed between them with sensitivity and insight.

Set in April 1963, just before the craziness of Beatlemania changed both their lives, the film fantasises about the four-day trip to Barcelona that followed an exhausting tour.  

No one will ever know what occurred at the Avenida Palace. But Münch's scenario relies more on character appreciation than salacious speculation and, consequently, what emerges is a compelling portrait of cultural, sexual, temperamental and intellectual opposites who were inextricably bound by curiosity, affection and respect, with Epstein's actions being coloured by self-loathing lust and Lennon's by insecure cruelty. Indeed, the latter's blend of cockiness and confusion even colours his contact with women, as Lennon is both teasing and doting on the phone to his wife Cynthia and aggressive and affable to Marianne (Stephanie Pack), the air hostess whose Little Richard record intrigues him more than her availability.  

 As in Backbeat, Ian Hart admirably captures the petulant nihilism that Lennon used as a defence mechanism. Moreover, he adroitly suggests the emotional scarring (caused by the deaths of his mother, Julia, and best friend Stuart Sutcliffe) that made Lennon simultaneously angry and magnetic and, thus, so attractive to his manager. But David Angus is equally impressive, although his performance had greater latitude as Epstein had a much lower public profile. Despite his physical dissimilarity, he nonetheless nails the avuncular attitude that Epstein adopted towards the Fabs and suggests that for all his supposed sophistication and nous, he was already slipping out of his depth, both professionally and personally.

A couple of decent performances from the two leads and an interesting subject but this is tricky subject matter for a successful feature.