As much a Beatles tribute as a romcom, Yesterday is charming and fun. If you’re a Beatles fan and in for a feel-good escapist fantasy flick, perfectly fits the bill.
What if you were a small-town singer/songwriter struggling to break through, and you woke one fine day to discover The Beatles had been somehow erased from history?
Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) finds himself in just that position after a road accident in which he is knocked out, along with a couple of teeth.
His first inkling that thangs just ain’t the same since the accident comes when he’s sitting around with his childhood friend and loyal part-time manager Ellie (Lily James) and a group of friends. He’s down in the dumps and on the point of giving up on his dream of a music career, but Ellie, ever the true believer, won’t hear of it. He reluctantly responds to a request to play something with a rendition of Yesterday. His friends are stunned. It is evident to us, but not to him, that they have not heard the song before and have assumed that it’s his original.
He attempts to deflect the praise that follows with the comment that Yesterday is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. To which one of the crew, taken aback at his apparent immodesty, remarks that he shouldn’t get ahead of himself, adding “It’s not Coldplay”.
I don’t have many LOL moments watching films, but that was one. Another follows soon after when, having found no trace of The Beatles or their music on the web, Jack attempts to play “his” new song Let It Be on the tinny family piano for his inattentive and constantly interrupting parents. Their reception is polite but underwhelming.
It’s not long, though, before Jack’s songwriting “talent” starts to draw a crowd. When an impressed Ed Sheeran invites him on tour as support act, he steals the show.
Next step America. Enter hotshot buck-worshiping manager Debra (Kate McKinnon, and speaking of show-stealing, she does just that with her gleefully grotesque caricature of the ugly corporate American). When she promises Jack fame and fortune, he faces a Faustian dilemma. Does he ride the Beatles’ genius to glory and riches, knowing he’s a fake? And artistic integrity aside, as with all Faustian deals, there is a price to be paid that is not readily apparent.
It’s not hard to predict where this is going – this is, after all, a rom-com. But the getting there is well-managed and there are a few surprises en route. Like, a visit to Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields, and the revelation of why two old Boomers keep popping up at Jack’s concerts, haunting him like a bad conscience. And, of course, Beatles songs. Lots of Beatles songs. You know that can’t be bad. Half the fun of the movie is wondering which classic will pop up next.
The dramatic and musical highlight is an angsty, punked-up version of Help, which perfectly expresses Jack’s pain and frustration at losing control of his life and the things that matter most to him. More than makes up for the inevitably soppy all-you-need-is-love ending.
Look, Yesterday is a bit o fluff, and don’t even think of subjecting it to logical scrutiny – even its internal logic won’t stand that. But it’s fun and charming, and if you love The Beatles’ music (commiserations if you don’t) a good time is guaranteed. Those fabbo songs shine here, sounding fresher than ever, even though – or perhaps because – not one is done anywhere near as well as the original. But then, that goes without saying.
Movie Website: https://www.yesterdaymovie.com/
Australian release date: Yesterday in Australian cinemas from 27 June 2019
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