Directed by: Danny Boyle
Written by: Richard Curtis
Starring: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran, Joel Fry, Lamorne Morris
Popular artists can leave an impact at their height but no group changed the way the common person experiences music more than The Beatles. As a global sensation, their impact left a mark still felt far after the peak of their popularity. Creating a world where they never existed opens up a great opportunity to show what life would look like without them but instead, Yesterday doesn’t know its identity and ends up being a bland romantic comedy.
Struggling as an artist for many years, Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) plays random gigs or music festivals to middling results. He’s managed by his oldest friend Ellie (Lily James), who offers nothing but unconditional support of his dream. One night, A bus strikes Jack because of a global power outage and when once he regains consciousness, he learns that no one knows about The Beatles or their iconic music. Jack sees this as an opportunity to make something of his career.
With such a fun premise, it’s so unfortunate just how mediocre the final product turned out, which ultimately comes down to Richard Curtis’s script. He made his name known for his romantic stories like About Time and Love Actually and while I have not seen the former, I loathe the latter. Once again, he disappoints with a story that has no real identity. The story loves to talk about the importance of The Beatles and how their music changed the world but the actual film does not explore any of that. Everything in this new reality remains the same except for people not knowing some songs. It shows no real impact, which made me question why Jack goes on and on about how important this band was to the history of music. Instead, it shifts to a romantic comedy with some of the most tired tropes in the game. The basic friend A has always been in love with friend B. Unfortunately, friend B never knew of that affection but once friend A makes those feelings known, friend B realizes that they have been in love with friend A too. Yeah, that basic and in this case friend A is only Lily James.
The two leads of the film become the saving grace of the film. Lily James captures magic whenever she graces the screen. Whether she needs to get home before midnight in Cinderella or sings her heart out as a young Donna Sheridan in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. I look forward to every project she decides to take on. Himesh Patel takes the opportunity to star in a sizable Hollywood production and turns up the charm. He electrifies the screen and becomes such a bright spot throughout the entire film and demonstrates he has the chops to succeed as an actor. Despite the subpar love story written for these two, James and Patel make it work somewhat well. Their back and forth with one another does all of the heavy lifting even though the material they received fails them.
Supporting the two leads included a bigger role for Ed Sheeran than I ever anticipated him portraying himself. Kate McKinnon plays Jack’s agent and her comedic purpose shows the manipulative nature of the film industry towards the talent. They both provide adequate performances in these roles and bring much of the humor as they react to the greatness of Jack’s abilities. Danny Boyle brought the story to life, which makes sense with his style of filmmaking. Slumdog Millionaire provides a beacon of hope and he tries to inject that into this story the best he can. He tries his best but he could not elevate the material he received.
The combination of all of the individuals involved should have resulted in such a good film, but it’s unfortunate that we received such a lackluster final product. The importance of The Beatles is never really felt except for them writing some songs that people liked. A third act moment occurs that feels almost sacrilegious to anyone who has any affection for the famous band and I could not believe that multiple people approved it for it to be put on the screen. The songs of The Beatles deserve much more than what they got with Yesterday but at least Lily James gets to continue to gain more star power.