Director: Danny Boyle
Writers: Jack Barth and Richard Curtis
Starring: Himesh Patel, Lily James
Genre: Comedy / Romance
Jack Malik (Patel) is a struggling musician who is on the verge of deciding to give up on his dream, when after a freak accident occurs, he discovers that he is the only person on earth that remembers The Beatles and their music. He then decides to perform their most famous songs claiming them to be his own, and he becomes a global megastar almost overnight, but can he keep the lie going?
Yesterday is one of those films that is difficult to review, and indeed criticise for any of its potential narrative failings and flaws, as a counter argument can easily be given simply stating ‘well, obviously that is going to happen, it is one of those kind of films’. This is indeed one of those films that follows a very strict and predictable narrative pattern, and anyone who has seen the trailer or read the synopsis can predict what will happen. So, how on earth can it be criticised for embracing the genre clichés that anyone who has basically seen any film ever will be able to predict?
Well, I guess that the best approach is to avoid criticising a film for using those said genre clichés (after all, all films tend to rely on clichés), but to analyse what it does with those said clichés and how effectively it uses them to examine some hopefully universal and relatable themes. The concept of Yesterday is admittedly an unusual one, and how it is explained is quite simply ridiculous and it so it best not to dwell on it too much (well, at all actually), because it simply raises too many questions that just cannot be answered. So, the film takes the liberty that the audience will happily go with its slightly strange (and extremely flawed) concept, and if we are, then in my opinion, Yesterday is an entertaining, amusing and very easy viewing experience, though admittedly a very forgettable one.
Of course, the music used is great, which helps enormously, and Richard Curtis’ script is very Richard Curtis, but does have plenty of amusing lines that certainly produce a fair few chuckles (well, at least from the audience in the screening I went to). Likewise, the performances are fine; Himesh Patel (who was very good in Jo Brand’s excellent sitcom Damned) does a solid job as Jack and is very likeable, and he delivers Curtis’ one liners with a suitably dry tone. Meanwhile, though it would be nice if one of the film crew gave her something to stop her eyes from constantly watering, Lily James is her usual likeable self, even if her character is excruciatingly cliched. Amusing support is provided by Joel Fry, Kate Mckinnon and even Ed Sheeran (as himself). Meanwhile Danny Boyle’s direction is solid, if particularly unspectacular.
Ultimately, Yesterday is a shameless genre piece and doesn’t even attempt to be anymore than this. Its ending is unspectacular (considering its genre and concept) but is fine all things considered. Yesterday will certainly not shock or surprise, and doesn’t really want to, but those looking for something that is light, harmless and easy to watch (and features some great music) will be perfectly satisfied.
A shameless genre piece; those that will not like Yesterday will know to avoid it purely due its story, but for those willing to embrace its clichés and narrative flaws, it is pure light, vacuous entertainment (with the added bonus of featuring great music).