By Bradley Lane
The Beatles are one of the most important acts in popular music. It isn’t a controversial statement after their influence has been cemented by hundreds of bands and artists that have walked on the path they paved. Their career is unparalleled in modern music and has been enjoyed by fans young and old since they started their careers. So, what would happen if The Beatles never existed at all, and you were the only one who could remember their songs? That is the exact scenario Jack, a struggling musician and songwriter, finds himself in, Yesterday. The world stops briefly after a freak worldwide power outage caused him to become involved in a bike accident. After Jack wakes up the world has no recollection of John, Paul, Ringo, or George. This puts Jack in a difficult scenario. No one has heard their massive catalog of classic songs, but if Jack decides to play The Beatles songs as his own, does that make him a fraud? Yesterday is very respectful and appreciative of The Beatles’ music and is made competently but struggles to deliver more than just a promising concept.
British Director Danny Boyle is a director with no shortage of hits. Boyle has directed classics like Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and Slumdog Millionaire. However, he only has one writing credit for any of his feature films. This means Boyle’s films success heavily relies on who he has writing his script. This means for Boyle to be operating at his highest potential he needs a solid script to work from. When Boyle teams up with writers like Alex Garland, Aaron Sorkin, John Hodge, or Simon Beaufoy, Boyle has no trouble competently directing entertaining and thoughtful films. However, Boyle struggles to fully realize a true vision for Yesterday through no fault of his own, but rather the totally underwritten script by screenwriter Richard Curtis of Love Actually fame. Curtis’ script does not make any attempt to do anything creative with its very promising premise. If you think you know how this movie will go before walking in, you’d more than likely be right. This would not necessarily always be a flaw, but with such an interesting premise, it does feel like a waste of potential.
The performances in Yesterday range from brilliant to annoying. Himesh Patel’s Jack and Lily James’ Ellie are sweet, interesting and charming characters to explore this story, though. Unfortunately, most of the supporting cast reads as caricatures rather than real characters. It seems to be a stylistic choice in the direction, and I could see it working for some people, but it just did not land for me.
Danny Boyle is a skilled director, but it is clear in Yesterday that its underdeveloped script held it back from being a much more interesting film. What Yesterday does accomplish with flying colors is capturing that magical feeling of hearing The Beatles for the first time. – 3/5 stars