Imagine a world in which the greatest rock n’ roll band never existed, and you were the only one who remembered their songs. What would you do? Go.
That is the premise of Danny Boyle’s Yesterday. Jack Malik (played genuinely well by Himesh Patel) is a struggling singer-songwriter on the verge of giving up when a global 12-second blackout erases The Beatles from history. He panics when he performs the title song for his friends and they don’t recognize it. Not even a mention of the Fab Four draws anything but blank stares.
This sets Jack on the path to fame as he recreates many of The Beatles tunes with his friend and manager Ellie (Lily James). Ellie has been madly in love with Jack since middle school, but Jack being so obsessed with his career, never noticed and this is where the film begins to lose its way.
It’s an exciting premise with limitless potential that gets stuck in your typical Rom-Com
There’s still riotous laughs along the way especially as Jack discovers its not just The Beatles that have been erased from history, but cigarettes, Coca-Cola and even Harry Potter have left the zetgiest. It’s an exciting premise with limitless potential that gets stuck in your typical boy-loses-girl/boy-wins-girl-back Rom-Com. Which is a bit underwhelming especially since Across The Universe already beat you to it. And although James is completely sweet and lovable as Ellie, the film suffers when it lingers on their relationship rather than executing a fruitful premise to a satisfying conclusion.
The one note Yesterday definitely hits again and again is its humor. During that blackout, Jack gets hit by a bus and loses his two front teeth to which he remarks that he looks like ‘some kind of reverse rabbit’. The laughs keep coming when we’re introduced to Kate McKinnon’s Deborah, a rapacious music executive who lands every line with deadpan precision. McKinnon brings the humor in spades in an otherwise uneven film not sure if it wants to regale us in nostalgia while having a pointed criticism about how the music industry has changed since the age of The Beatles or a sappy love story with a great soundtrack.
It would have been a stronger film if it had gone with the former. Still, the music will keep you in your seat tapping along and is bound to incite curiosity in a younger generation who missed out on the craze known as Beatlemania.
Oh, and Ed Sheeran is in the film too.