A struggling musician realizes he’s the only person on Earth who can remember The Beatles after waking up in an alternate timeline where they never existed.
What if you lived in a world where ‘The Beatles’ never existed? That’s the premise of ‘Yesterday’, the latest film from Danny Boyle, which centres on Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), a struggling singer-songwriter who wakes up from an accident to find himself the only person who remembers the band. The film gets good mileage out of Patel’s incredulous reactions to his friends indifference to this revelation, google searches that don’t turn up what Jack expects, and primarily from creating a scenario where Malik performs iconic songs as if they’ve never been played before. It’s a fun premise and if you’re willing to go along with it, I think you’ll really like this film, as I did.
Once Jack discovers this gift as it were, he’s caught in a moral quandary. It would of course, be unethical to pass off other musician’s songs as his own, but on the other hand, it would be cruel to deny the world the chance to hear these superb songs. Patel plays this conflict well and his charm makes us root for him, even as the film is a little less certain on how to handle this conflict, choosing mostly to shy away from it in the name of maintaining the feel good nature of the movie. Himesh Patel, who prior to this only has a Channel 4 sitcom and a long running role on ‘Eastenders’ to his name, is really terrific in the leading role and I fully bought into the chemistry between him and Lily James, who plays his friend cum manager cum potential lover. The supporting cast are fun, from Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal as Jack’s parents, to Joel Fry who steals every scene he’s in as Jack’s roadie and friend Rocky. Of course there’s also Ed Sheeran, who gamely sends himself up in some of the film’s most amusing scenes.
This may be a Danny Boyle directed film, but it’s got the stamp of screenwriter Richard Curtis all over it, namely in the light hearted approach and the romantic, joyous nature that runs throughout the film. I did think it lost a bit of narrative steam towards the end and I’m not sure the filmmakers really knew how to tie in some of the subplots (one in particular is a complete anti-climax), but for what it is, ‘Yesterday’ was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it
Directed By: Danny Boyle
Starring: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Joel Fry, Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Meera Syal, Lamorne Morris, Ellise Chappell, Harry Michell, Camille Chen, Alexander Arnold and Robert Carlyle