Highly acclaimed director Danny Boyle teams up with screenwriter Richard Curtis on their latest film Yesterday – an amusing although somewhat underwhelming picture.
Musician Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) wants to make it big in the music industry and become the next big sensation with the help of his lifelong manager Ellie Appleton (Lily James) but it ultimately goes nowhere, much to the disappointment of both. However, one day after an accident, while performing the hit song “Yesterday” by English band The Beatles, Malik is shocked to learn that neither Ellie nor the rest of the world knows who they are. Now, Jack will do whatever it takes to show the world their songs and to introduce their music to the world for the first time.
When it comes to the performances in this movie, they are all exceptional, but the most notable is from Patel who portrays lead protagonist Jack Malik. He has to do quite a lot of acting with just facial expressions and expressing deep emotions and he does so really well. It is also quite nice to hear his singing voice while performing hit songs such as “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude”. His vocals are actually incredibly strong and he was a fantastic choice for this character.
Lily James is additionally exceptional here, and her chemistry with Patel is electric. The two genuinely feel as if they have been friends in real life for many years and I absolutely bought them as these characters here. Throughout the film, we see Jack constantly struggling to get even a few fans from his music, but Ellie has been there ever since the beginning and was his first true fan, even if she is his manager at the end of the day. Their relationship was quite charming and fun to watch unfold.
It is also a greatly humorous movie as well, with a lot of the jokes landing and managed to make me genuinely laugh at times. That being said, there are a few times where the comedy did not land and came across rather bizarre, but for the most part it worked well and provided some smiles.
Since this is a picture about a man who discovers that the entire world has no idea who The Beatles are, one would certainly expect to see a deep dive into how different the world would be had this massively inspirational band had never existed. Unfortunately, this is the biggest issue with Yesterday – it just did not delve that deep into its gleefully intriguing premise. Yes, there are some scenes in which we do see individuals unbeknownst as to who the band is, but they never really do much with it.
In fact, it is established fairly early on in this movie that Coldplay exists as well as Ed Sheeran, who is actually quite good here, but honestly, Coldplay or Sheeran may not even be around had it not been for The Beatles. So many things are established as being around or not being around and it creates for some glaring plot holes that, at times, can be a bit too big to ignore.
Some of the editing is also jarring at times. During certain moments, we will see characters travelling somewhere, with text and music accompanied on screen telling us where this new scene is taking place, and the music dies out rather quickly and it felt off.
It also suffers from some pacing issues, most notably in the first act. It took quite a long time before the interesting premise actually began, and for a little while, it seemed bizarre that the actual plot of the film had not kicked in yet.
Yesterday boasts great performances all across the board and is exceptionally comedic, but falls flat due to its underexplored premise.
Overall Grade: B-
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for suggestive content and language
Cast: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Ed Sheeran, Kate McKinnon
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Running Time: 116 minutes