Yesterday, directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) and written by Richard Curtis (Love Actually) is the ultimate film for casual and hardcore Beatles fans alike. The movie tells the story of a struggling musician who gets into an accident and wakes up to discover that he is the only person in the world who knows that the Beatles ever existed.
The story plays out exactly how you would expect: the protagonist starts at the bottom, makes his way to the top, and ultimately realizes that fame and fortune isn’t going to make him happy. However, this rags-to-riches tale is such a frequently used trope because it is compelling and heartwarming. When you go to see a movie like this, you aren’t hoping to see something revolutionary or enlightening, you just want to have some fun and listen to Beatles music, and in that regard, it works.
The character development in the film is also very strong and one of the main reasons why the movie works so well. It is hard not to love the protagonist, Jack Malick, because his passion and ambition is infectious and endearing. His relationship with his romantic interest, Ellie, is also very compelling (although a bit frustrating at times), even if Ellie isn’t given much to do outside of being Jack’s motivation to change.
Breakout star Himesh Patel is cast perfectly in his lead role, infusing the character with a ton of charm and making the film far more entertaining. Patel is very talented, as both a singer and an actor, so his career will only go up from here. His chemistry with co-star Lily James is great, who is herself at the top of her game, giving a fun and ditzy turn. The only real weak link in the cast is Kate McKinnon, who is woefully miscast as the aggressive manager in an ineffective attempt at comedic relief. Ed Sheeran plays himself in a comedic relief role already, so McKinnon’s casting is unnecessary.
That being said, the best part of the movie is watching Patel cover some of your favorite Beatles songs in unique ways. The rights to the music likely accounted for a majority of the film’s budget, so it is surprising that a majority of the music used are the most popular tunes. It would have been nice to hear more of their experimental stuff, like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” or “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, but perhaps they wouldn’t have fit with the tone of the movie.
The pacing of the film is certainly uneven, which is likely the movie’s biggest flaw apart from general predictability. The beginning of the film is very strong, as it gives you a good introduction into the characters and their world. However, from the time the accident occurs to the time when the Jack begins performing the Beatles’ music feels a bit too long. A few moments also drag towards the end of the second act, but those are less noticeable.
Additionally, the movie isn’t quite a home run on a technical level. Boyle is one of the most talented filmmakers working today, there’s no doubt about that — it’s just that his style may not have been fit to this script. For example, the cinematography is filled with canted angles that are in the film for no good reason. The movie is at its best when Boyle uses montages, making them almost like miniature music videos. The rest of the film looks and feels off-putting.
Yesterday certainly isn’t the most groundbreaking movie, but it is a good time, especially if you are a fan of the music that is such a large part of the film. This will be a hit with older audiences feeling nostalgic about the times of music past.
Yesterday hits theaters on June 28.