Film Review – Yesterday

DIRECTED BY: Danny Boyle

STARRING: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran, Joel Fry, Sophia Di Martino, Elles Chappell, Harry Michell, Camille Chen, Alexander Arnold, James Corden, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Meera Syal, Karl Theobald and Robert Carlyle

 

SYNOPSIS

A struggling musician realises he’s the only person on Earth who can remember The Beatles after waking up in an alternate timeline where they never existed.

Jack Malik is a struggling singer-songwriter in a tiny English seaside town whose dreams of fame are rapidly fading, despite the fierce devotion and support of his childhood best friend, Ellie. Then, after a freak bus accident during a mysterious global blackout, Jack wakes up to discover that The Beatles have never existed… and he finds himself with a very complicated problem, indeed.

Written by Richard Curtis and directed by Danny Boyle, Yesterday focuses on struggling singer-songwriter Jack Malik who all but gives up his dreams of music stardom when he gets hit by a bus during a global blackout. When Jack comes round from his accident, he soon discovers that no one else on Earth remembers who The Beatles are. Burden with this knowledge, Jack decides to use this to his advantage, performing their songs and claiming them as his own, leading to the stardom he dreamed of but with certain complications.

 

Yesterday has an interesting concept in that with a band that was as impactful and as influential as The Beatles, would their music have the same impact to fresh new ears hearing the likes of ‘Yesterday’, ‘Let It Be’ and ‘Hey Jude’ for the first time? Would their songs have the same influence on others on the fact that they being channelled by someone else for his own purposes? The film’s strength is in the first act as it focuses on this premise, with Jack now deciding to use this knowledge of being the only one to remember The Beatles to his advantage, singing their songs and much to his bewilderment, he still stands at the same position he was before, serving as background noise and being effective-less with these classic songs and starts to question, is it him that’s the issue? While the film does raise these moments, it also looks at the music industry and whether or not their music can still sound the same if redone today for modern audiences (leading to a scene in which Ed Sheeran pitches changing ‘Hey Jude’ to ‘Hey Dude’, much to Jack’s disgust) and whether Jack can maintain their artistry, right down to the album titles/covers (another scene that leads to the head of marketing telling Jack that the ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ album title has ‘too many words’). The film does provide a few laughs with the concept, as The Beatles aren’t the only thing that become non-existent when Jack waits up from his accident and Danny Boyle’s direction gets the film some balance and some interesting shots. The performances across the ensemble are solid, Himesh Patel is likeable as Jack, ranging from dumbfounded to spiralling out of his depth and burdened with being a fake as he climbs higher the musical fame ladder. Lily James is charming as Ellie, Jack’s best friend/manager, Joel Fry is amusing as Jack’s friend turned roadie Rocky, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal are at times hilarious as Jack’s parents, particularly Bhaskar and Ed Sheeran plays a self-deprecating version of himself that provides some humorous moments.

 

The main issue that I had with the film is that whilst the potential in the concept and direction is there, it all feel flat for me in the second half as the script focuses so much on the will they/won’t they love story with Jack and Ellie. There is a particular scene leading into the final act that just struck a wrong chord with me and then the film dwindles down to a cliched, manufactured conclusion that tastes sour rather than feeling earned. While the film brings up some interesting ideas with its concept, it doesn’t feel like it’s explored as much as it should be, especially one certain element in which something is learned to be non-existent, which was an influential moment in Jack and Ellie’s friendship yet it’s never addressed (unless there’s a scene left on the cutting room floor). Kate McKinnon makes a memorable impression as Debra Hammer, a performance of multiple shark-like music executives rolled into one that at times works in scenes and feels flat in others.

 

VERDICT

Yesterday is a film that has an interesting concept, starts off with good potential and yet it feels in the final act it delivers the wrong love letter that some viewers will be invested in. There is enjoyment to be had here, with Boyle’s direction anchoring Patel’s and James’ charming performances, but unfortunately for me Curtis’s script doesn’t provide the meaningful punch for the narrative in the final act. 5/10

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