Yesterday Movie Review - Spuriously Entertaining

Published: Jul 10, 2019, 16:24 IST | Johnson Thomas |

Yesterday might seem like sacrilege to those who adored The Beatles but it's not without its guilty pleasures. There are surprisingly wry and humorous moments worth cherishing

A still from the trailer
A still from the trailer


U/A: Drama, Musical
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Joel Fry, Ed Sheeran, Kate McKinnon
Rating: Ratings

Director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Richard Curtis reimagine the world without The Beatles and what a sorry world it might have been. And I am not belittling the film but the fact that 'creatives' have degenerated to the extent that writers are now imagining dystopian landscapes determined to squeeze out the few beautiful pleasures of life itself.

Though the premise of the film teases us with the concept of a world without The Beatles, the writer-director duo obviously couldn't have done without utilising their songs to lure the audience in. So we have this piquant construct where Jack Malik(Himesh Patel) an Indian origin, rather mediocre, English songwriter and performer suddenly wakes up after a worldwide power outage ( was it the millennium bug?) and a subsequent accident - with a pounding head and people around him who have no idea about The Beatles. He is the only one with any memory of their musical genius. When Jack mentions "The Beatles" to people, they ask him "What's that?" So he checks up on the internet and does his fair share of research before he buys into that idea. With him being the only one with any memory of the stupendous numbers attributed to The Beatles he lets loose their songs, (claiming they are his), on a very receptive public. With bestie and Manager Ellie's (Lily James) help Jack is called upon to record a few of the songs, appearing on local television shows to promote them and even Ed Sheeran (playing himself ) takes Jack on tour with him. When Jack decides to play "Back in the U.S.S.R." in Moscow, the crowd go wild and the video of the performance goes viral. Sheeran self-deprecatingly murmurs, "I was always told someone would come along and be better than me. You're Mozart and I'm Salieri." The analogy may be odious to the purists but it makes sense in a convoluted sort of way. The film has an inhibited, diffident Jack rising from mediocre to one of the greats within a few years. But the success doesn't last long. Jack feels lost without Ellie and then his conscience also pricks him…

Check out the trailer here:

Thankfully "Yesterday," "I wannna Hold your hand" and many more did happen and it certainly wasn't Jack Malik who made them happen. The story here doesn't go much beyond the obvious though. There are issues here that could have been developed further –especially the one about plagiarism, but Curtis prefers to press on with romance and light comedy rather than make this an intense drama about valuing talent and creativity. Boyle and Curtis are probably making a comment on the 'instant' generation and how they are apt to make even the mediocre seem talented. Even with The Beatles songs and music at his disposal Himesh Patel's Jack Malik doesn't quite create magic. There's no alchemy in a single mediocre performer trying hard to ape a brilliant quartet.

This movie might seem like sacrilege to those who adored The Beatles but it's not without its guilty pleasures. There are surprisingly wry and humorous moments worth cherishing. When Debra Hammer (Kate McKinnon), a typical record label exec asks Jack, " Is this as good as you can look?" It's not just a statement about body shaming but also an indictment of the music industry she represents. McKinnon is first rate in her superb interpretation of her role. When the song "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" comes up for recording the execs junk it saying it has too many words and when the Album title "The White Album" is suggested, they pontificate about diversity issues. The funniest it gets is when Jack tries hard to remember the lyrics to "Eleanor Rigby."

Ed Sheeran does a fair joy playing himself, Lily James is also fantastic as friend, manager and love interest and Patel has a charm that stays with you even if he doesn't have the singing talent to make it stick. Richard Curtis' script skims over most of the implications of the 'what if' premise, preferring to throw its weight around typical romantic contrivances and a climax that feels feeble and unfulfilling. This is a frivolous, though, entertaining film!

Also Read: Yesterday once more (for sure)

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