We start in Liverpool. Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon are at a club; Stu makes a nude sketch of the girl onstage. Some big men confront them. John and Stu leave the club, but the men follow, and we end up seeing Stu pounded heavily, his cranium taking the trauma. This will be important later.
We see several scenes of John and Stu bonding, and one of Stu choosing to be a bassist. We do not see any other Beatles until the ferry to Europe, about 15 minutes in.
We see the seedy nightlife of the Reeperbahn played to the hilt.
And finally, we are at the Kaiserkeller, and we see Klaus Voormann and Astrid Kirchherr. John does not get along with them. Stu falls in love...
From here on, we alternate between scenes with The Beatles and scenes with Stu and Astrid (and sometimes others).
There is a Foregone Conclusion.
- Ambition Is Evil: Paul McCartney—in this film, and with what little time he's given, he is an antagonistic figure causing conflict between Lennon and Sutcliffe. But it's a mixed example: see Jerkass Has a Point below. most of what he does is for the success of the band.
- Blood from the Mouth: From Stu when he has his attack.
- Cassandra Truth: Paul's warning that Stu has to leave the Beatles and denial that John will leave with him. John doesn't believe it until it happens.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Ringo Starr shows up in an early scene, but his role is limited to laying sick in Stu's bed. Of course, he later shows up as the Beatles' drummer, replacing Pete Best, after they achieve success.
- Cult Soundtrack: The whole aim of the film soundtrack was to recapture the "punk" feel of the early Beatles rocking out in Hamburg early in their careers. So how do you do it properly? By getting Dave Grohl, R.E.M's Mike Mills, Thurston Moore, David Pirner, and other band members from The Afghan Whigs and Gumball to belt out old 50s standards with all the gusto they could muster.
- Foregone Conclusion: A few:
- Stu leaving the Beatles to pursue his ambitions in the art world.
- Stu's death.
- The rest of the Beatles striking it big later on.
- Jerkass Has a Point. Paul was correct in noting that Sutcliffe wasn't really good enough to play with the rest of the band, and that they would have to get rid of him if they were going to succeed. Sutcliffe himself, who basically joined The Beatles because he was John Lennon's best friend, was aware of this.
- Love at First Sight: Stu and Astrid first see each other at an early gig in the first club the Beatles perform in in Hamburg, and though Stu is busy performing it is clear that they both see each other and feel something.
- Love Dodecahedron: Stu is in love with Astrid, who has been dating Klaus and who John claims to have fallen for, while John is also accused of being in love with Stu. Oh, and there's also John's fiancee Cynthia.
- Mythology Gag: "I've been working eight days a week," says Stu to a doctor.
- Pungeon Master: You can't have a film about the Beatles without their trademark wit.