Yesterday, staring Himesh Patel and Lily James is a heartwarming tale about a struggling musician named Jack (Patel) who can’t find the courage to tell the woman he loves how he feels. During a worldwide power outage, Jack is struck by a bus on his bike and when he comes to he discovers that he is the only one in the world who remembers The Beatles and their music. The film follows Jack in his pursuit to become a successful musician and the guilt he feels by using songs he didn’t write as his own. The idea of this movie is an interesting philosophical question: Without the cultural phenomenon behind The Beatles, would their songs, if released today, be as well loved and revered as they are now?
I was skeptical when going into this movie because I didn’t want a big budget movie to stain the love I have for The Beatles and their music again. (I’m looking at you Across the Universe…) I went into this screening knowing full well that I was probably going to hate everything about this movie, but instead I was met with a heartfelt love story that kept a smile on my face the whole way through. Himesh Patel’s performance is what makes this movie as good as it is. In reality, you should want to hate this character for plagiarizing some of the most famous songs of all time just to make a buck. Patel handled this task with humility and crafted a character that you not only love, but you want him to succeed with these songs because of his bumbling charm. Ed Sheeran plays himself in the movie and I thought Ed was simply a delight in this film. The Ed Sheeran scenes are some of my favorite moments in the film and he plays off of Jack’s energy really well and he’s actually quite funny to boot. When I saw him in the trailer before the film, I thought he was just a cameo to try to draw a younger audience, but he actually plays a fairly big role. There’s one scene in particular that I loved where Ed and Jack have a “song off” where they isolate themselves for a short period of time and then they compare to see who is the better song writer. This scene sent chills throughout my body and put a big smile on my face, I absolutely loved it. It was there to highlight how magical it would be to hear a new Beatle’s songs for the first time and I think it’s the best moment in the whole movie.
I enjoyed the authenticity they provided when dealing with The Beatles’ catalog. I’ve read up on this movie after my screening and discovered that the director, Danny Boyle, wanted the songs to all be recorded live and to feel like they were presented from the viewpoint of the character and what he remembered about the songs, rather than perfect carbon copies of the originals.
As successful as this movie is for me it is not without its fair share of flaws. The movie was co-written by Richard Curtis, who’s most famous for his previous writing credits on Love Actually (2003) and Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994). Yesterday feels a lot like Four Weddings and Funeral in which any conversation between the lead and their love interest is painstakingly awkward and you just want to slap the character in the face and yell, “JUST SAY IT ALREADY”. There are several awkward moments like this in Yesterday and it just drove me crazy. I feel like Richard Curtis has made his whole career out of awkward British romcoms of this style and these dialogue sequences just don’t do it for me. Luckily, Yesterday is not like this for the entire movie like it is in Four Weddings and a Funeral so it’s somewhat bearable. A lot of people find this style to be charming but I find it to be cringe inducing torture and I physically feel embarrassed during these moments. It’s kind of like the same feelings I have when I watch Meet the Parents where everything continues to go wrong and it physically pains me to watch.
There isn’t a lot that can be said about the technical aspect of this film due to fact that it’s a pretty simple narrative without any action sequences or special fx. The cinematography was quite beautiful though and you could tell there was a lot of thought that went into every shot. The camera framing and movement really helped to carry the narrative in a beautiful way. I think Christopher Ross did a great job and I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of his work in the future.
Overall, the good out weighs the bad for me in this movie and I genuinely enjoyed this film. It’s not the best movie of the year by any means, but I was consistently entertained and it kept a smile plastered across my face throughout. Danny Boyle movies are pretty hit or miss and I can imagine that this film will receive mixed reviews from critics and fans alike. I don’t generally lean towards the rom com genre, but this film is a perfect date movie that everyone can enjoy, Beatles super-fan or not.