Charming, warm, and pleasantly surprising, YESTERDAY is a joyous ride through the back catalogue of The Beatles even if the leads fail to leave a lasting impression
Imagine a world without The Beatles. No John, Paul, George and Ringo. No Beatlemania. No Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Pretty dire right? Yet Richard Curtis’ (LOVE ACTUALLY) and Danny Boyle’s (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE) new film – which imagines that very scenario – is anything but dire. It’s charming, warm, and pleasantly surprising.
YESTERDAY follows the life of Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), a struggling singer-songwriter who just can’t seem to catch a break. Fed up of travelling from one bad gig to another with his best mate/manager Ellie (Lily James), Jack is ready to pack it all in and go back to teaching until a mysterious global blackout suddenly changes everything.
After crashing his bike into a bus, Jack wakes up to find himself in an alternate timeline where The Beatles never existed. Quickly seizing on the idea that he can pass off their songs as his own, Jack becomes an overnight sensation, his haphazard rise to fame and fortune taking him further and further away from his small-town life and the woman he realizes he might love.
As you can gather from the synopsis above, the plot for YESTERDAY isn’t going to set the world alight but if you’ve seen the trailer – or indeed any of Richard Curtis’ previous films – you should have a pretty decent idea of what you’re in for. YESTERDAY is light-hearted British rom-com at its best, its quintessential British humour, delightful supporting cast and unusual premise giving it an edge over other jukebox films in its category.
There is plenty to like here, most notably the soundtrack which is a joyous ride through the back catalogue of The Beatles. Most of the tracks have been stripped back to become largely guitar-led numbers and still sound unfailingly great, reminding you just how good The Beatles actually are – just in case you forgot. There are also some nice visual flourishes from Danny Boyle who directs efficiently, evoking a little nostalgia with his recreation of iconic Beatles album covers and general ‘60s pop art graphics.
Shame then that the lead performances in YESTERDAY are largely forgettable. Don’t get me wrong, Himesh Patel and Lily James are a strong double act, their rapport and natural chemistry making their romance believable, but as individual characters, they fail to leave a lasting impression. Patel, in particular, lacks the superstar power to carry the film – which is all on him – but does impress vocally, handling the Beatles numbers with both charm and ease.
YESTERDAY also fails to acknowledge the impact of removing the world’s most “influential music act of all time” from history. There’s a throwaway gag which reveals that there is no Oasis without The Beatles, but the rest of modern music remains largely unchanged, including the music of Ed Sheeran, who openly admits to being influenced by the Fab Four.
That said, these are minor criticisms and, for the most part, YESTERDAY is impossible not to be charmed by. The film also boasts some genuinely touching moments, including a well-executed surprise towards the end of the film which is sure to put a smile on your face.
YESTERDAY is released in UK cinemas on 28 June 2019.
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.