Yesterday movie review: Danny Boyle's throwback to The Beatles and return to rom-coms is worth every penny
Even if you are into Ed Sheeran’s music and not a The Beatles fan, Yesterday is a film that is impossible to hate because of Danny Boyle's treatment.
Of all the genres director Danny Boyle has scaled in his career, romantic comedy is something one never expected him to come back to, particularly with his previous effort Life Or Something Like It being the least effective of his oeuvre.
With Yesterday, Boyle continues to mine the deep reservoir that fuels memories and emotions in audiences, this time digging into our nostalgia of The Beatles and with a script by feel good maestro Richard Curtis. The combination of Boyle and Curtis is potent entertainment, ideal for all kinds of audiences in any kind of situation, even if the overall effect is slight rather than powerful.
The setup has a touch of sci fi – somewhere in England, Jack (Himesh Patel) is the typical struggling singer playing at empty bars, but his luck changes when he gets hit by a bus, because he wakes up in a world where The Beatles do not exist. Naturally, Jack decides to play their songs and pass them off as his own and gains instant popularity.
With the setup established fairly early in the film, Boyle sways the audiences with a vast catalogue of the band’s music, and any fan of The Beatles would surely find himself humming along with all the right sentiments. What works is the retro style mashing with Boyle’s typically youthful post modern energy and aesthetics, which elevates the breezy charm of the narrative and the the potential consequences of being in a world that does not contain the biggest pop culture phenomenon in modern history.
Aiding the appeal is that the film has the joyous sense of a spirited, but low key liveliness from its actors, indicating a sure sign of strong core direction and the film knowing exactly when not to punch above its weight. There is deceptive skill in the way dialogue, The Beatles song covers and character development gel together. There is not a single moment that seems to be out of place. Particular mention deserves to go to both Patel and Lily James, who predictably becomes James’ love interest but transforms her on-paper two-dimensional character into a convincingly likable object of affection. Somehow, Ed Sheeran, who makes an extended cameo, is also pretty good as Jack’s mentor, even though he is chewed and swallowed by the amazing Kate McKinon, who plays a manager.
Even if you are into Ed Sheeran’s music and not a The Beatles fan, this is a film that is impossible to hate because of the way Boyle and his team cycle through the various tracks and use them as plot vehicles than merely disposable grand moments. Older viewers are in for a bonus because they would one hundred percent get a kick out of the affection for the heyday of the '60s, and their kids would probably be intrigued to learn more about why The Beatles were such a rage during that time.
It could seem boorish to be picky but there is one particular subplot in the film that feels unearned and something that feels like it renders cheap pathos. The middle section also sags a little bit leading to a two-hour runtime, seeming 15 minutes too many. But even if the film does not fully explore its ‘what if’ concept, there are just way too many laughs and crowd-pleasing moments to keep you invested and help smooth over the shortcomings. With all the earnestness and fun that the film commands, there really is no reason why you should not be seeing this on the big screen this weekend. Just make sure you pick a theatre with really good sound.
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