We’ve been looking forward to this movie since first seeing the trailer several months ago. The premise is enticing and creative. Unfortunately, previews now give so much away there’s always the risk of seeing a film and then feeling as if the trailer would have sufficed.
While there’s an element of that at play here, I can say that enough surprises, twists and tangential plot lines are carefully woven in along the way to make this a thoroughly enjoyable ride. And then there’s the music. If you don’t like the Beatles, don’t read further, don’t see the movie, and please don’t tell me. I don’t want to know that about you.
Out of respect for my daughter (the ultimate Beatles fan), I will not spoil or reveal much at all about the content of Yesterday. Also for the sake of the twenty or so people who may read this review.
I have written about the Beatles before:
The band’s impact on popular music and our culture are dreamlike, and Yesterday does a good job of recreating that evolution from the inside out, through the eyes and experiences of Jack Malik, played by Himesh Patel. There was no need to explain how Malik, upon being struck by a bus during a mysterious twelve second global power outage, became the only person on Earth to remember the Beatles. As a failing musician, his struggle becomes choosing to reconstruct and play the band’s extensive portfolio of hits as his own. Or not.
And I will say that I feared before viewing the film that it would be revealed at the end of the story that it all happened in a dream or a coma. That would not only be disappointingly lame, but incredibly weak screenwriting. They did much better.
Ultimately this becomes a love story. Jack’s manager and long time friend Ellie (Lily James) have become so mired in their respective “columns” through the years that there seems no way to cross boundaries. Complicate this with Jack’s sudden fame and departure from their tiny English seaside town and we have a second through-line that periodically intersects Jack’s journey.
Ed Sheeran plays a significant role as himself throughout the film. This lends a current musical sounding board to the script along with observations like, why would a modern musician write a song about the USSR? And who the heck is “Jude?”
Danny Boyle (127 Hours and Slumdog Millionaire) is the director of this charming, feel good movie.
The casting of Kate McKinnon as a predatory L.A. manager was a distraction. Just about anyone could have played this role. Her association with Saturday Night Live pulled me out of the film and into a lengthy comic sketch. Other than that, she did a fine job with the part.
If you want to see this movie, go quickly, before someone tells you “just one thing” that you’ll otherwise receive as a gift on your own. And in case you find yourself wondering, the surviving Beatles have embraced and approve of the film.
Yesterday runs 1 hour, 56 minutes and is rated PG13.
Should I see this movie?