UNIVERSAL PICTURES (2019)
Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Ed Sheeran, Kate McKinnon, Lamorne Morris, Joel Fry
All my troubles seemed so far away.
Can you imagine a world where The Beatles never existed? The Fab Four? It’s a strange old thought but together, Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis, have attempted to give us a glimpse of how things would be if those four Liverpudlian lads never got together. In a world that has no idea of The Beatles (thanks to a freak accident), Jack Malik (Patel) decides to take those hallowed tunes and pass them off as his own, leading to global fame and success – but at what cost?
Based mainly in Suffolk, England, Boyle delivers a quaint slice of English village life mixed with the rowdy razzmatazz of Los Angeles in a story of what if’s, ‘if you could would ya’ and essentially choosing/doing the right thing – all set to The Beatles greatest hits (impressively performed solely by Patel). The problem is, the movie doesn’t really dive into the world without The Beatles, instead, focusing on being a simple rom-com with musical interludes. That isn’t a bad thing at all per se, it’s just that, well, the supposed premise would have been better than what we actually got. The initial scenes of Jack realising that no one knows of The Beatles and realising he may be able to pull this swindle off are great but they are soon replaced by the weak love story and a clunky Sheeran-led romp to LA. The overly simplistic and thin narrative isn’t strong enough to sustain a two-hour runtime and, whilst Patel and James have genuine chemistry, there’s always a nagging doubt that Yesterday could have been so much more.
Patel delivers a fine lead performance, showing decent range and plenty of promise with Lily James as captivating a presence as ever. Kate McKinnon’s highly insensitive manager isn’t quite as jarring as I had feared, though Ed Sheeran…well…he tries, bless him. The story positions him as the world’s premier songwriter which is frankly hilarious. When Yesterday actually goes into The Beatle-less world, it succeeds more often than not – the Google search gags provide the best laughs and Jack attempting to remember The Beatles songs and lyrics are safely the highlights of the movie. The rom-com aspects are soft and fluffy – it’s Richard Curtis’ speciality after all – but the sheer cliché of it all prevents it from being effective or really even engaging. There's a scene in the final act that you'll either love or hate, it'll prove divisive. Me? I thought it was misjudged,
Musically, the songs are given new life by Patel, he does a fine job of performing the songs and giving them just enough of a fresh twist to be classed as ‘his’. Visually, however, Yesterday lacks any appeal. Boyle does his damnedest to make Britain’s towns dowdy and antiquated – I live here and the places look boring as hell. I had to remind myself of what decade the movie was set in as everyone had a strange penchant for dressing like it was literally the ‘50s and ‘60s – and not in an ironic way. LA, on the other hand, is vibrant and full of life – obviously, the dichotomy is plain to see, but it’s executed poorly.
Oh, James Corden appears too which is an immediate no-no.
Despite those flaws, the movie itself isn’t entirely a slog. It’s entertaining enough for the most part but really could have done with some tighter editing. It’s Patel that saves the entire movie with a spirited performance but there’s an unshakable feeling that Yesterday could have delivered more on its central premise – and in turn, deliver a better movie. As it is, Boyle believed that All You Need is Love.
July 5th 2019