Yesterday Review

This feels like a comedy made for me. A film directed by Danny Boyle, written by Richard Curtis and focused on the music of The Beatles. For this kind of film, that’s kind of the dream team. As a result, I was really excited for this film, especially since I’ve wanted Danny Boyle to do a musical for years. Having seen the film, I found this to be a really charming film, the kind of film you’d expect from Richard Curtis.

The film follows Jack Malik, a struggling musician living in Clacton-on-Sea who, after getting hit by a bus the exact moment of a global power outage, finds out that he is the only person on the planet who knows the music of The Beatles. Taking advantage of the situation, Jack decides to perform the songs of the band and pass them off as his own. He is able to get success doing this, earning the support of Ed Sheeran and getting an American agent to make him a star, but risks losing his friend and former manager Ellie (who believed in Jack’s skills before he started using the music of The Beatles). Now the main strength of the film is the charm that it has. There’s a distinct charm that Richard Curtis brings to his scripts that is on full display here and it’s something that’s hard to explain. Anyone who’s seen a Richard Curtis film knows the exact kind of charm that he brings. There’s also a great bit of comedy in the film, with there being some great jokes about Jack struggling to remember the music of the Beatles, in particular struggling throughout the film to remember how Eleanor Rigby goes. There were some times when I thought the film could go more in depth with how certain songs of The Beatles would play to a modern audience. There was a moment which looked at how the album names may not work today but some good comedy or commentary could have been seen over songs like Taxman or I Saw Her Standing There and how some parts of those songs may not work. The main thing the film nails though is the power of The Beatles and the importance of their music, showing the timeless nature of their songs and why people today still love the music.

The performances meanwhile add to the charm of the film. Himesh Patel as Jack is a lot of fun, doing good work in the more comedic parts of the film with a very expressive face that allows for some great reaction comedy, there’s this slightly awkward charm to him that works for a Richard Curtis protagonist. It also helps the film that Patel is a solid singer, able to put his own spin on the songs of The Beatles to make it believable in this world that he wrote them. There’s also this sense of guilt Patel brings to the role over him taking the credit for the songs, with there being a desire in him to give The Beatles credit, even though no-one knows who they are. Lily James meanwhile is incredibly charming as Ellie, showing her support for Jack throughout the film, with the relationship between the two feeling very natural and sweet because of the chemistry that Patel and James have with each other. I was surprised by how solid Ed Sheeran was in the film, with Sheeran effectively showing someone who knows he has seen who will replace him as the next big thing and it’s also clear that Sheeran was willing to make fun of himself that further adds to the charm of the film. Kate McKinnon is a pretty stereotypical agent character, but her comedic talent shines through, whilst some great comedic moments come from Joel Fry, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal who steal the film whenever they’re on screen.

There are some decent technical elements to the film as well. Even in a more low key film, Danny Boyle is able to bring his style to the film, with a moment where the songs Jack recorded are released being a particular highlight of the film. I also appreciate that the film does have some scenes shot in Liverpool and takes advantage of the environment of Liverpool (mainly to show Strawberry Fields, Penny Lane and the grave of Eleanor Rigby) to create some dramatic moments. The choice of Beatles songs to use in the film meanwhile was solid. Some of the more obvious choices like All You Need Is Love and Hey Jude are well utilised, the way Help was used worked brilliantly in the context of the scene, good use of the instrumentals for A Day in the Life and Hello, Goodbye was seen and I liked how it gave attention to songs like The Long and Winding Road and In My Life.

Overall, I found Yesterday to be a really charming film. It isn’t the deepest look at the works of the Beatles and as a jukebox musical for their songs it doesn’t reach the heights of Across the Universe, but there’s a distinct charm that Richard Curtis and Danny Boyle bring to the film and as a celebration of the music of the Beatles, it works wonders, aided by strong performances from Himesh Patel and Lily James.

My Rating: 4/5

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