A breakout star and a self-deprecating Ed Sheeran shine in Yesterday
Liam MagurenReviews | 26 June 19
No-one in the world can remember The Beatles except a struggling musician, who uses this bizarre situation to his advantage in this comedic flight-of-fancy tale directed by Oscar winner Danny Boyle (127 Hours) and from the writer of Love, Actually.
Though the script ask you to swallow some mighty big pills, Flicks writer Liam Maguren found enough to enjoy in this burly crowd-pleaser.
I don’t know who was asking for a resurgence in the bump-on-the-head fantasy-com genre, but we got it with Isn’t It Romantic (bump, I’m in a rom-com!), What Men Want (bump, I hear men’s thoughts!) and I Feel Pretty (bump, I have self-confidence!). Danny Boyle’s Yesterday does something more specific with its story of a struggling musician who *bump* seems to be the only one in the world who remembers The Beatles and uses their songs to gain the fame he’s been working towards. It’s quite a thought-provoking situation, which is odd for a crowd-pleaser that doesn’t want you to think about it too much.
Obviously, if you walk into a film with an intentionally silly setup, you can’t take things like time paradoxes or plot contrivances all that seriously, and Boyle’s hyper-speed direction assures you move on before you can question any of this thoroughly. When the film tries to make serious statements about the modern music industry, however, that’s when the allowance stops.
Exhibit A: would masses of millennials really flock to a cover of 1960s hit I Wanna Hold Your Hand if it never existed before? If you struggle to swallow this possibility, you’re gonna need the Heimlich manoeuvre for the gigantic pills screenwriter Richard Curtis (Love, Actually/About Time) dishes out. Judging by the finale, I’m guessing he still burns MP3s onto CDs for his Discman.
Fortunately, lead Himesh Patel keeps things on track with a breakout comedic performance as the likeable, naive, well-meaning musician Jack Malik. His constant befuddlement over his situation always amuses, the frustration of trying to recall lyrics feels painfully relatable, and I don’t think any actor’s delivered a funnier type-things-into-Google scene. Although his character exploits the non-existent Beatles, his sense of duty to preserving their timeless songs keeps you on his side.
Patel also shares some on-point romantic chemistry with Lily James (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again)—too bad the script doesn’t give them much more than friend-zone frustrations to work with. Joel Fry and Kate McKinnon comedically overdeliver just as much with three-word stereotypical roles as Loser Best Friend and Evil Music Agent, respectively.
Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal get the porridge just right, though, as Jack’s doofus parents whose pride in their son is matched only by their vapid taste in music. They’re a chuckle-worthy highlight and so is Ed Sheeran, who can’t act but deserves props for letting himself be the butt of many, many jokes.
It’s a shame Yesterday couldn’t do something truly great and modern with its unique premise. Fortunately, its hefty humour and infectious characters will prove a delight for anyone looking to take a date or their parents out for a burly, original, crowd-pleasing night at the cinema.
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