Though it occasionally favours histrionics over robust storytelling, the British artist Sam Taylor-Wood’s directorial début, which chronicles the childhood and early teenage years of John Lennon, contains some terrific performances—particularly from the 19-year-old TV actor Aaron Johnson in the lead role. Based on a book by Lennon’s half-sister, the film focuses on the future Beatle’s departure from his mother’s home in Liverpool to live with his aunt Mimi—played by an acerbic but charming Kristin Scott-Thomas. His mother is played with precision and compassion by Anne-Marie Duff (Notes on a Scandal, the forthcoming The Last Station). Watching John meet a prodigiously-talented young guitar player called Paul is a magical moment, but the film is unnecessarily overshadowed, especially throughout its last third, by melodrama. Opens on Thursday April 1.