Starring Himesh Patel, Lily James, Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran,
Directed by Danny Boyle
Genre Comedy and Music
Runs 116 Minutes
Opens June 27th
“Yesterday,” a musical fairy tale written by Richard Curtis (“Notting Hill,” “Love Actually”) and directed by Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting,” “Slumdog Millionaire”), the movie was made to celebrate the magic of the Beatles.
The story is set outside West London and the cast is multi-cultural, which may broaden the audience. There are special cameo’s from Ed Sheeran and James Corden. “Yesterday”, stars British soap actor Himesh Patel (Eastenders) who is an appealing if painfully earnest 27-year-old Indian-British singer-songwriter who can barely get a dozen people to show up for his gig at a music festival.
The film starts out quickly, with Jack, who is about to give up and go back to work as a teacher is knocked down by a bus in the middle of a global electricity outage. When he awakens in the hospital, there’s been a rather random hiccup in the time-space continuum: nobody has heard of the Beatles. (Even more randomly, Coke doesn’t exist either, or cigarettes. Quite a fascinating scenario to ponder.)
Jack can’t resist the opportunity to cash in on this good fortune, first by presenting ‘Yesterday’ as his own song and moving on to appropriate the entire Beatles back catalogue. Nothing much changes at first, and he carries on with his job in a supermarket warehouse, until he’s spotted by Ed Sheeran, who plays himself, and invites Jack to be support on his upcoming tour which includes Moscow where he sings ‘Back In The USSR’.
He’s approached by a rather amoral Hollywood agent Hannah (Kate McKinnon), and soon they’re planning the release of the biggest album in the history of music. None of that matters, however, when Jack suddenly realises that his greedy quest for fame and fortune may have cost him his childhood best friend and stalwart supporter, the girl-next-door Elly (Lilly James).
Himesh Patel is very appealing and Lily James cements her standing as one of Britain’s most loved actors. The only real risk taken is by Kate McKinnon, who puts quite a dark spin on her delivery of the venal Hollywood agent but she is most convincing and a delight to watch.
“Yesterday” milks most of the movie for its comedy element. Cute scenes includes after Jack sings “Yesterday,” one of his friends comments that it’s a “nice” song, and Jack, incensed at the understatement, declares, “It’s one of the greatest songs ever written!” But considering that everyone there thinks he wrote it, it just sounds like his ego has gone off the charts, and one friend tries to put Jack in his place (and the song, too) by saying, “It’s not Coldplay.”
In “Yesterday,” the greatness of the Beatles is like a trump card that Jack, and the filmmakers, keep playing. Yet the greatness of the Beatles is never something the film invites us to discover. It’s more a fantasy we are invited to embrace, with Beatles songs.
SCORE 7 OUT OF 10