Yesterday

Release: Friday, June 28, 2019

→HBO

Written by: Richard Curtis

Directed by: Danny Boyle

Imagine all the people living day to day without the music of the Beatles. Imagine John Lennon aging into his 70s, living a quiet life with an un-famous instead of infamous significant other. And imagine being Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), the only one in the world who still has a recollection of the band and their indelible influence. These are the things the very silly but undeniably charming romantic comedy Yesterday imagines and then makes real.

Jack is in a bit of a pickle. Well, first he’s in a hospital bed and missing some teeth after getting struck by a bus when a global blackout hits out of nowhere. Up to this point his pursuit of his musical passions has not been going well. He struggles to get gigs and when he does he plays to dwindling crowds, some of them so small his mates and his so-obviously-more-than-friend/manager Ellie (Lily James) are the crowd. When he plays a classic Beatles tune for them one afternoon and they’re none the wiser, Jack sees an opportunity. The blackout has seemingly wiped away the collective memory of the band that redefined music not just for a generation but forever. It’s not all bad though because apparently Coca Cola, cigarettes and Harry Potter no longer exist either.

Provided he can remember the lyrics, why not start passing off ‘Eleanor Rigby’ as his own? We don’t have to go crazy here and exhume ‘Yellow Submarine’ or anything like that but, really, who is he harming if he claims authorship of some of the most popular songs ever written? So he does, and with Ellie’s hand gently on his back, guiding him in the direction of his dreams yet unwilling to abandon her post as a schoolteacher, he embarks on the path to superstardom. He brings along his very socially awkward friend Rocky (Joel Fry) as his roadie.

Along the way Jack meets British singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran, for whom he opens at a big show in Moscow and later gets into a songwriting “battle” where the two are challenged to come up with a new song on-the-spot. I’ll let you guess as to how that works out. Jack’s situation becomes more complicated when he is introduced to American talent manager Debra Hammer (a deliciously nasty Kate McKinnon), who convinces him to dump bonny old England for the sunny coastlines of L.A.. Once there he faces increasing pressure to not only put together a collection of smash hits which will form “the greatest album of all time” but to overhaul his image into something that screams Success.

Yesterday is a fluffy bit of entertainment surprisingly directed by Danny Boyle. I say surprisingly because while it has the vibrant colors, fancy camerawork and busy mise en scène that make his movies so visually energetic and engaging, it is Richard “Love Actually” Curtis’s writing that ends up characterizing this movie. The fantastical premise is as littered with plot holes and contrivances as much as the soundtrack is with Beatles classics (the usage of which reportedly took up about 40% of the overall budget!). Yesterday is Boyle’s fourteenth directorial effort and it just may be his most formulaic.

Despite the flaws, none bigger than the fact the story never really delves below the surface of its complicated morality, it is hard to hate on a movie that is so amiable and so full of heart. That largely comes down to the efforts of the cast who make for great company at each and every step of the way. British-born actor Himesh Patel proves to be an impressive singer, and his genuine chemistry with Lily James had me smitten from pretty much minute one.

Recommendation: A bonafide cheesy, feel-good movie. I’m trying to decide if you’ll get more out of this thing if you’re a Beatles fan or a sucker for a good romantic comedy. As far as the music goes, Yesterday feels like a “Classic Hits” soundtrack. 2020 has been a rough year to say the least so far. Maybe “hunkering down” with a movie as familiar and ordinary as this is just what the doctor ordered. 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 116 mins.

Quoted: “Miracles happen all the time!” 

“Like what?”

“Like Benedict Cumberbatch becoming a sex symbol . . . “

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Photo credits: IMP Awards; IMDb 

20 thoughts on “Yesterday

  1. This is exactly the kind of film we need right now. You put it perfectly: ” It is hard to hate on a movie that is so amiable and so full of heart.” What else is there to say but “All you need is LOVE.”

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    • Amen to that. Hope you and your family are holding up well during these insanely weird times. I’m seeing photos of California (LA specifically) looking like a ghost town. Totally surreal.

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    • I really enjoyed Ed Sheeran’s banter with Rocky on the plane! That was a highlight scene for me lol

      I think in the end, even with this movie being as formulaic and “familiar” as it is, that’s just another Thing Danny Boyle has in his diverse portfolio. He can make some really strange stuff — one of my favorites of all-time is his Sunshine — and then he can do crowd-pleasers as well. He’s a great director!

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  2. Glad you liked it too. You’re right, it’s unabashedly silly, but it’s so much fun. And Lily James is such a delight. She’s an actress I’ve grown to really appreciate.

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    • I agree, though I think I’ve only seen her in two movies so far — this and Baby Driver. She’s been great in both. The spirit of Yesterday is really infectious, even if Richard Curtis doesn’t entirely capitalize on the intriguing premise. What did you think about the cameo towards the end? I’ve read some pretty negative responses to that inclusion . . .

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  3. Really keen to catch up with this one, as I missed it in the cinema. Not enough to actually buy it on disc, you understand, but it can’t be long before it turns up on Sky Movies on a Friday night…

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    • It’s a really fun movie. Nothing exceptional but the cast is a real pleasure and I had fun with the movie amplifying ‘Help’ to a heavier rock sound. But boy is the movie formulaic. Which wouldn’t be so much of an issue for me had it been directed by almost literally anyone else.

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  4. Yeah the plot holes are noticeable even on the first viewing. The Long and Winding Road wasn’t the song I’d have chosen for that song battle either. But yeah Lily James was especially delightful and the film has a lot of charm. I wish there were more movies in this vein right now.

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    • Funny enough, I almost put on Blinded by the Light last night, which I was happy to see available for free on On-Demand. I’ll probably get to that sometime soon but didn’t really feel like posting about two very similar movies back-to-back. Have you seen that one?

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    • I think this is one of those movies for me where it’s mostly about being surprised by WHO made it. This didn’t really feel like a Danny Boyle movie to me, but that of course did not stop me from enjoying it. Yesterday is a fun film — just wish it could have dived deeper into its interesting premise. The two leads were really sweet, though.

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