Yesterday Movie Review
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In all of the movies I’ve seen from Danny Boyle, I think I was charmed the most by Yesterday, and knowing his filmography it was an easy footrace. There is nothing overtly sinister about Yesterday, or terrifying about its premise. It’s good old-fashioned speculative fiction that feels as relatable as it feels probable – you know if you blinked into an existence where the Beatles never existed, that it.
Jack (Himesh Patel) is a struggling musician with a very small but dedicated following who decides one day that he dreams of chasing that one big break just isn’t in him anymore. Despite the protests of his manager and childhood friend who’s been carrying a torch for him since forever, he bikes way from that one song that everyone seems to sort of like. In the blink of an eye, literally a worldwide blackout that affects everything from elevators o the lights with guide buses to full and complete stops, he’s in an accident and wakes up to a world where no one has ever heard of the Beatles. He begins to catalog their songs remembering them from memory and becomes a viral sensation. Weighing his meteoric rise stardom with the importance of friends, self-respect, and doing what one loves.
Ed Sheeran is along as himself, already a superstar watching this up and comer knock his ego down a few pegs. Kate McKinnon plays the darkly funny Debra Hammer, a record label producer who makes no bones about hitching her wagon to his star solely for money. Lily James is Ellie who never stops believing in Jack, even when he decides to late what the future may have for them both.
It’s more than a romantic comedy and less than a musical, as Jack is an everyman who isn’t dumb or pretentious or callous and just wants to do right by his dreams and his conscious. Ven when he achieves stardom, he doesn’t become insufferable or difficult, and perhaps that’s because he was already a good guy. The story stays grounded, in part because Jack knows the songs are stolen, and the rest may be the stardom isn’t his to wrap himself in. The imposter complex is very real, and it rides an uneasy current throughout Yesterday, keeping the film from veering too far from the comfortable suspension of disbelief.
There are lots of Beatles covers sang by Jack, as he tries to remember the music in order, and there’s a rather hilarious bit where he encounters a 21st C marketing firm whose yes-men, bandwagon, millennial attitude foils his chances of naming the albums in order. Throughout the film he catches people watching him and he’s always wondering when he’ll be exposed for the fraud he believes himself to be. This is a movie worth owning for the easy romcom angle and the wildly fun speculative aspect.
Yesterday (2019) is rated PG-13 for swears, a rather violent bus accident, missing teeth, bruising, near sexy times. For a Danny Boyle flick, it’s super tame and very enjoyable.