What would happen if one of your favorite musical artists never existed and you’re the one that knows all of their songs? Would you take the chance to make them well-known for others and reign in all the fame and glory in some kind of fantasied world? Yesterday, the latest from director Danny Boyle and writer Richard Curtis, will make you wonder that entirely to wind up in mixed results.
What’s the Story: Jack Malik (Himesh Patel, Eastenders) is a struggling singer-songwriter from Lowestoft who can’t catch a break with his talents that only his friend/manager Ellie (Lily James) is the one who cares what he has to offer. After a worldwide blackout that causes Jack to get in a bike accident, it turns out he’s the only person in the entire world who knows The Beatles. Now, he uses this tactic to make the band’s songs his own and makes him one of the biggest musical artists of all-time.
When the first trailer came out back in February, it was easy enough to be excited about this. And the pairing of the Oscar-winning director and the writer of a lot of iconic romantic comedies (Notting Hill, Love Actually, About Time) that many have shared passionately about might lead to being a winner in the middle of summer. Enjoyable as Yesterday turned out to be when it isn’t perfect, and I can’t remember a lot that happened, but it’s able to be just alright when it’s over, to be honest.
Patel makes his film debut with a performance that’s ultimately charming. Knowing that we are supposed to care about his character Jack and want him to succeed in the music world, he came off as pretty likable. Then once you add the adorable James to make for a great romantic interest for the lead character to be oblivious about, and the chemistry they both share with each other is definitely meaningful.
Some of the other supporting cast includes musician Ed Sheeran, and his performance was the one thing I was worried about in Yesterday because sometimes artists playing themselves don’t make for a time. It turns out he was enjoyable and has a good screen presence. And then there’s Kate McKinnon as Debra Hammer, Jack’s new agent. Like this most of her roles in movies, some might get annoyed with her and some won’t. She was playing her character a bit goofy for a music agent, but I didn’t mind it that much.
The combination of Boyle and Curtis is one of the reasons why this sounded interesting, and it wasn’t too bad. Boyle’s direction is well-shot, and Curtis’ screenplay wasn’t as promising as it seemed since he has written better movies than this, but it’s passable with some good jokes during the first two acts. More or less like a comedic version of a Twilight Zone episode when you come to think of it. I kind of forgot Boyle switches around genres in his filmography to make something like Trainspotting to Steve Jobs, so for him doing a lighthearted take on a story like this feel different for him.
Can I describe myself as a hardcore Beatles fan? No. I don’t know every single song from their discography, but these are some of the catchy songs that every fan will know by heart. Their songs are everywhere throughout this. Even the woman who was sitting in my row was humming to a couple of the songs. And I think Patel has a good voice to sing all of the band’s songs, especially when he’s recording them or performing in front of a large crowd of people. They even played “Hey Jude” (my favorite Beatles song) during the end credits. So, I can say this a good movie to introduce those who’ve never listened to the music of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr.
But even though the idea sounds promising and pretty simple, there wasn’t anything after the realization that doesn’t take the time to explore a concept like this. Turns out, Yesterday is another one of those movies where it has an idea that sounds cool but wasn’t enough to be invested. The moment where Jack tries to remember all of the songs he can, it was hard to know if he should feel guilty of stealing music that was once popular. And then there are things that also don’t exist after the blackout, which I won’t spoil, but I was kind of like, “What?”. Not only that, there wasn’t anything that made my heart beat with a passion when it kind of felt flat from my perspective when it came to Jack and Ellie.
It can also feel predictable to how it will wrap up. This does put the position on a character on having all of this fame came with a price of losing what you had from the beginning and the problems that come with it. Which is sad, because I wanted to feel happy with uproarious wonder leaving the theater that I would make me have the brain power to think of a musical like this.
Fans of The Beatles are going to be pleased with what Yesterday has to offer. With such a unique premise, it, unfortunately, it wasn’t explored quite enough to consider this memorable. I haven’t seen every movie Boyle has directed, but I kind of expected a lot more from a director like him. Is there a chance I’ll watch Yesterday again, probably so just to see if anything changes.
Sidenote: If I was the only person in the world that knows all of Muse’s music, maybe it would be best for me to bring their music to the world.
Cast: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Joel Fry, Ed Sheeran, Kate McKinnon
Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Richard Curtis
Runtime: 116 Minutes