Director: Danny Boyle
Writers: Jack Barth and Richard Curtis
Producers: Nick Angel, Lee Brazier, Bernard Bellew, Tim Bevan, Danny Boyle, Richard Curtis, Alexander Dostal, Eric Fellner, Matthew James Wilkinson
Starring: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Sophia Di Martino, Ellise Chappell, Meera Syal, Harry Michell, Vincent Franklin, Joel Fry, Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran, James Corden, Michael Kiwanuka, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Karl Theobald, and Alexander Arnold
It is undeniable to say that the trajectory of this film’s narrative is fairly formulaic and predictable following the bizarre inciting incident. Still, when looking at what exactly this movie sets out to do, it is a resounding success. This movie had me smiling from start to finish.
After discouraged freelance singer-songwriter Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is nearly killed in a bike accident after a mysterious momentary worldwide electrical blackout, he awakes in a hospital bed to the same world he left – with one catch. In this reality, the revolutionary British rock band, The Beatles, never existed. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr never produced their world famous music. Initially by accident, Malik pieces together this information, and soon takes advantage of the golden opportunity that has landed in his lap. What results is the wonderfully entertaining tale of a down-and-out musician who suddenly finds himself on top of the world.
Beatles fans everywhere will enjoy the marvelous covers of some of the Beatles’ greatest hits, like the eponymous Yesterday, as well as I Want to Hold Your Hand, Here Comes the Sun, The Long and Winding Road, Back in the USSR, and many others. All of these tracks are performed by the immensely talented Patel in the leading role. On the other end of things, film fans will appreciate the charming performances, surprisingly thought-provoking themes, and well-crafted technical elements. With the tight editing montages to progress the narrative (Jon Harris), appealing art direction (James Wakefield) and cinematography (Christopher Ross) in the concert sequences, and convincing production design (Patrick Rolfe), audiences will become ever-enthralled into the fantastical world of Jack Malik.
The chemistry between Patel and co-star Lily James – in her role as Ellie Appleton, his first music manager and closest friend – is genuinely heart-warming. They feed off of each others’ energy and charisma, heightening the overall quirky tone and atmosphere of the film. Additionally, supporting roles from the likes of Joel Fry, Kate McKinnon, and Ed Sheeran himself are all perfectly folded into the story line, bringing some of the biggest laughs and best comedic moments to the table.
Still, it must be noted that the pattern of the story itself does not necessarily add anything ground-breaking or shocking apart from the concept of alternate realities. It is easy enough to pinpoint exactly where the characters are going to go in each situation. The lines from Point A to Point Z on their character journeys do not make many deviations. Yet, when these slight shifts do occur, there is a noteworthy level of depth and wisdom fleshed out in these moments. A handful of stimulating questions are raised regarding the unbelievable situation in which Jack Malik finds himself. What are his moral responsibilities with the knowledge of this world-changing music? How can he take credit for these masterful achievements in artistry, but maintain a clear conscience? What about his personal relationships with his family and most supportive friends, all of whom have made countless sacrifices for him throughout their lives? It would be all too easy for the slippery slope of fame and fortune to claim another victim. Witnessing Malik’s struggles with these internal conflicts is certainly compelling. In the midst of an otherwise predictable rags-to-riches narrative, the filmmakers take the time to pose these intriguing inquisitions, and examine the impact of the characters’ choices.
Of course, Yesterday is not going to be one of the year’s most critically acclaimed films when all is said and done, but it will definitely remain one of my most cherished, as a long-time fan of The Beatles. This film is truly a beautiful tribute to the legendary music of perhaps the greatest band of all time, and a movie that I will hold near and dear to my heart for years to come.