Danny Boyle has one of the most varied resumes as a director. His career spans from the heavy drug scene in Edinburgh (Trainspotting) to intense zombie horror (28 Days Later) to epic science fiction (Sunshine) to an Academy Awarding Bollywood film (Slumdog Millionaire) to a single character survival movie (127 Hours), and even Leonardo Dicaprio on a beach (The Beach). Now Danny Boyle steps into the “Rom-Com” genre but with a unique twist. What if The Beatles never existed in the world, and only one person was able to remember them. The first trailer had me hooked, making this one of my most anticipated movies of the year. In my opinion, The Beatles are the greatest band ever and Lennon and McCartney are the greatest songwriters to ever walk this planet. This is such a fun and interesting idea to explore and in that way, it did not disappoint. I really wanted to love Yesterday, but I walked away having only liked it. I wanted it to be great and it wasn’t, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy my experience with the movie.
Yesterday follows Jack Malik, a struggling musician on the cusp of giving up on his dream and pursuit to become a musician. No one comes to his shows, his original songs aren’t connecting with people as he hopes, and his only true believer in his work is his manager/best friend Ellie, played by Lily James. When Jack recovers from an accident he had with his bike and a bus he comes to realize that no one knows who The Beatles are. As seemingly no one has even heard a lick of a Beatles song, Jack decides to pawn the songs that he can remember from The Beatles as his own as people start to take notice of him. The concept of a man now living in a world that doesn’t know who The Beatles are is a wildly entertaining concept to explore and is Yesterday’s greatest feature. The movie utilizes this concept well This movie is packed with great situational humor and moments of ironic humor. I had a lot of questions about this concept of just how does this work. The Beatles were highly influential, so if no one remembers them, does this affect other things? Yesterday has a great way of answering all of those questions and revealing them in fun, humorous, and in one case, very shocking ways.
Going in as a Beatles fan I had to remind myself and prep myself that in this movie it’s their songs, but it won’t be sung by The Beatles. Himesh Patel does, for what I can remember, pretty much all of the singing in this movie. He does a fantastic job at it, but just know its not The Beatles and it can sound weird since we are so used to hearing those particular voices sing those songs. Speaking of Himesh Patel, this is his first big break out role and I think he does a great job leading this film. I really enjoyed the conflict he had in his performance. His character really struggles with the moral dilemma of making money and getting fame from someone else’s work and he plays that part well. Lily James is someone that if I would ever direct a movie, I would put her in all of my projects. To me, she seems like such a delight and is a natural and charismatic actress. Ed Sheeran plays himself in a small role and while he’s not the best actor, he consistently had me laughing. He clearly wasn’t afraid to poke fun at himself for this movie. Whenever he was on screen, he didn’t have the best line delivery or the best things to do in the movie, but every time he was on he had me chuckling. The one person who did not work for me and felt out of place in comparison to the rest of the realistic and grounded characters was Kate McKinnon. She felt like she was playing more of a sketch character that was out of tune with the rest of the realistic performances in the movie.
Aside from the great concept and exploring it in a fun way, Yesterday is a fairly straightforward romantic comedy. The romance story here is nothing new or game-changing. I was actually surprised by the fact that this movies main story is the romance in the end, and not really The Beatles plotline. While The Beatles storyline here is unique and plays out well, it services as more of a backdrop than an essential story. If you were to take out The Beatles part out of this movie, I feel it wouldn’t really change all that much of where the story went. Sure you would have to tweak a few things in the story, but essentially it would still be the same movie just without the great Beatles songs. So as much as I love the jokes and situational humor The Beatles storyline provides, at the end of the day, it’s kind of wasted on a generic movie.
Yesterday is a fun, enjoyable rom-com that is a perfect date night for any Beatles fan. The concept is fun, and humorous but doesn’t go much further than that. This is a movie we’ve seen many times before despite the unique concept of the world forgetting The Beatles. The romance is light and doesn’t dive into much deeper themes then what is presented at the surface. This is not a groundbreaking, never before seen movie, but it is fun and a perfectly fine lighthearted time at the movies.