“Yesterday” Review: A World Without The Beatles

It took me a bit to get used to this oddly idea, but by the time I sat in the theater I was partially sold on it. All I was thinking was: could a charismatic cast (aided by the star power of Ed Sheeran) and veteran direction from Danny Boyle make this film work?

When I first heard of Yesterday‘s premise, I thought it was silly. A movie about a world where no one remembers The Beatles, except for one British musician? It took me a bit to get used to this oddly specific idea, but by the time I sat in the theater I was partially sold on it. All I was thinking was: could a charismatic cast (aided by the star power of Ed Sheeran) and veteran direction from Danny Boyle make this film work?

The degree to which you love The Beatles will impact how much you will enjoy this movie, especially given how much time is spent showing Jack perform song after song (some more culturally relevant than others). But, even for casual fans of the band, there will be plenty to admire and smile at. Yesterday is beautifully directed by Boyle and features some captivating scenes between the cast, which is lead by Himesh Patel and Lily James. The film features beautiful shots from all over the world and stunning music scenes (most of the time involving Ed Sheeran himself). The leads are charismatic and are given plenty of opportunities to shine, but for me the MVP is Kate McKinnon for providing enough edgy comedy to recharge the movie through its long second hour.

yesterday2.jpf
Universal Pictures

The main issue with Yesterday is that it refuses to explore the most interesting aspects of its premise. Predicting musical hits is a nearly impossible task and it is improbable that a great song written in the 60s would connect with young audiences if it were released today. Somehow the film forgot that talent doesn’t equate to fame, and in some instances it even dared parody itself for making this implication. Even if this were the case, it poses many other questions. Why would one single musician be the only person to remember The Beatles? How is he able to remember all of their music and lyrics well enough to perform them and replicate their success?

It is a shame that Yesterday wasn’t willing to trade a few of its entertaining musical moments for some more substance. But if you are willing to turn off that itchy part of your brain and forgive Yesterday’s lack of inventiveness, the film is likely to work as just another fun musical time at the movies that will surely make you smile and sing along to the lyrics.

Grade C+
Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Jack Barth (story by), Richard Curtis (screenplay)
Main Cast: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Sophia Di Martino, Ed Sheeran, Kate McKinnon

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