Starring Himesh Patel, Lily James, Joel Fry, Kate McKinnon, Alexander Arnold
Stupidity abounds in Danny Boyle’s latest film “Yesterday” which comes to us from a Richard Curtis (“About Time”, “Love Actually”) script. The origins of the story are the main selling points of the trailer and also the films most charming moments. After the blackout that causes The Beatles, Coca-Cola, and cigarettes to disappear, the entire film begins to down-shifts to the romantic aspects of the story, bypassing the more intriguing elements. “Yesterday” fails to establish clear rules and boundaries to what’s actually happening, changing and inventing things as it goes along. You can barely accept the strange occurrences happening ( like where the lead actor is the only one who remembers The Beatles), but when Ed Sheeran shows up out of the blue to become a supporting character, that’s one oddity too many.
Since middle school Jack Malik (Patel) has wanted to be a singer/songwriter. He’s played all the local Suffolk pubs and event centers thanks to his best friend and manager Ellie (James). Home one night after a major music festival Jack, along with the rest of the world, loses power for 12 seconds. Ellie describes it as a delayed Y2K outage. In that 12 seconds, Malik is hit by a bus, knocking out his front teeth, but when he wakes up, he begins to realize that no one knows who The Beatles are, nor have they ever heard their songs. He begins passing off the classics as his own to near-instant fame and fandom. Ed Sheeran hears one of the songs and shows up at his house and invites him to be his opening act. Vicious LA manager Debra Hammer (McKinnon) signs Malik and gets him to work on the greatest music album of all time. As his dreams come true, all Jack can think about is Ellie, and how he’s missed his chance with her all these years.
“Yesterday” asks the viewer to suspend reality in a way that becomes burdensome.
Outside Boyle’s obnoxious location credits that glare across the screen, there isn’t much cinematically that can identify the award-winning filmmaker. It’s a fairly generic looking film which isn’t uncommon for Richard Curtis scripts. The schmaltzy, romantically inclined screenwriter certainly hit a high point with movies like “Notting Hill” and “Bridget Jones Diary,” however his more recent work feels like plots and scenarios that should have been abandoned, left behind in the ’90s. Each character, from McKinnon’s villainous manager to Malik’s parents are all one-note. Even our leading man, new film discovery Himesh Patel has the same expression on his face, making his emotions on screen undistinguishable. Lily James (“Cinderella, Mama Mia 2”) in yet another romantic comedy? Groundbreaking. McKinnon is funny to be sure, but her character feels plucked from an entirely different movie and inserted here.
“Yesterday” asks the viewer to suspend reality in a way that becomes burdensome. It’s also not a very engaging film which offers the audience too much downtime to contemplate just how stupid this story is. The focal point of the story, landing in the wrong place, is tethered to a variety of unimportant subplots which further distract us from the elephant in the room, “why is all this stuff happening?” We never get an answer, because, childhood sweethearts. Beatles fans might get more out of “Yesterday” than the average moviegoer who is ambivalent about the genre of music being featured. Boyle continues to swing his bat at these general audience films until he lands another “127 Hours,” “Steve Jobs,” “Slumdog Millionaire.”
Charming and unique turn stupid very quick.