Beginning in Liverpool in the 1950s, the film concentrates on the early life of John Lennon (Philip McQuillen) as he struggles to become a successful musician in the embryonic stages of British rock and roll. Lennon goes on to form a number of bands, widening his local audience as he develops, before later joining with Stuart Sutcliffe (Lee Williams), George Harrison (Mark Rice-Oxley), Pete Best (Scot Williams) and Paul McCartney (Daniel McGowan) to form the Beatles. The group attract the attention of music promoter Brian Epstein (Jamie Glover) who engineers their success and fame. However, Sutcliffe and Best are both dropped from the band, to be replaced by Ringo Starr (Kristian Ealey).
The film focuses on eight years of Lennon's youth, from age 16 to 23, from his teenage years living with his aunt Mimi Smith at 251 Menlove Avenue to the early successes of the Beatles. It deals with Lennon's abandonment by his father, the double loss of his mother (first to another family and then to an accident), his introduction to McCartney at St. Peter's Church Hall, his courting and marriage to his first wife, Cynthia (Gillian Kearney), the loss of his best friend Sutcliffe, the birth of his son Julian, and the early popularity of the Beatles in Germany. It includes authentic Liverpudlian landmarks such as the actual house where Lennon grew up, St Peter's Church Hall (where he first met McCartney), Liverpool College of Art and Quarry Bank High School where Lennon was a pupil, as well as numerous musical venues where the early Beatles performed.
Also shown are recreated scenes from the Quarrymen, the German era, and the Cavern Club performances. The film ends with the Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.