Review: Yesterday

Two weeks. For two weeks you haven’t heard from me. How’s it been? Enjoy your time off? (Don’t say yes). Well I actually did, because I was in Iceland seeing and doing all the things and it was awesome. But it seems like it was only yesterday that I was reviewing Toy Story 4 and packing for my trip…..see what I did there? While in Iceland, we just had to make some time to get to a theatre, both for the experience of an Icelandic theatre as well as to see the movie that they couldn’t stop promoting over the radio while we drove around the island (didn’t understand a word otherwise, but good music!). Yesterday is directed by Danny Boyle, a director who is all over the genre map with movies like Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later, and 127 Hours. It’s also written by Richard Curtis, who I acknowledge here as well because of his writing for both Love Actually and About Time (and I’ll get back to that in a bit). I was seriously excited for this movie from the first trailer because it came out of nowhere for me, someone who generally pays attention to movie news, and the soundtrack is all Beatles songs, duh! And I will say that I enjoyed it, and would even recommend it to other fans of Beatles music, but it doesn’t fall into my “must see” category of movies in theatres.
A quick synopsis of the movie is that a talented yet struggling musician, Jack Malik (played by Himesh Patel), managed by his childhood friend Ellie Appleton (played by Lily James) finds himself waking up from a bus accident to a world where nobody remembers The Beatles. He realizes that this may be the opportunity he needs to make himself known, and therefore decides to re-record and perform most of their greatest hits as his own copy-written material. However, as he becomes the world’s next big music icon, he is secretly struggling with the decision he made to “steal” the music and lie to his family, friends, and fans.
This movie is part fantasy, part romantic comedy, and part music but it never really finds it’s groove in any of those three genres, and I think that’s mainly why I left the theatre a little disappointed. It came across as very fragmented. It’s why I brought up writer Richard Curtis, because it’s like he brought that rom-com style from Love Actually to this movie for plot: jumping from one thing to the next with strange transitions and all the while never going in-depth enough with any character or situation. And in a way, if you’ve ever seen About Time, he also brought the quirky and weird romance aspect to this movie too, which I like but don’t love, but definitely could have been done better here. Yesterday was also a little off with it’s fantasy element too (not to spoil the movie) because it took a turn and stopped. It didn’t end the way I expected, which I think is, although a bit cliche, how it should have ended. They backed themselves into a corner and didn’t even try to get out, and I think there were some avenues they could have explored to recover some but never did. It had several plot points that were just there and never really explained, and in a fantasy movie you can’t allow that happen. Finally, the music. The Beatles are iconic, and there songs are easily recognizable from just a few notes or a moment of lyrics. But that doesn’t mean that just a few notes or a moment of lyrics is all that we want to hear in the film! Unlike more recent, well-received musical films like Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, the songs in Yesterday were heavily chopped and sometimes had 4 or 5 melded together in a 15 second transition sequence. It just didn’t play well for me, and I wanted to spend more time with the music, even if it was Patel singing because he was really good.
The movie did have some things worth highlighting though. The music, obviously, was great. And Patel did a phenomenal job singing them. I think that he performed better as a singer than as an actor overall, but his acting style was a great fit and pairing for Lily James, who I just adored in this film. She was very quirky and there was just something appealing about the way she played her character. In a very different way, Kate McKinnon’s role also fit perfectly as Malik’s new L.A. manager. She was to-the-point and no b.s. with her clients, who also include Ed Sheeran who was by all accounts as much of a counter-character to his actual personality as McKinnon. This alone provided many laughs, which was another strength of the movie because it was much funnier than I expected. There were several characters that contributed to this and in different ways too, from straight-faced and dry to an almost slapstick-like humor.
So if you’re looking to spend an afternoon inside with air conditioning, and cinema is something you enjoy participating in, then I wouldn’t say no to seeing this film. However, with so many summer blockbuster choices right now in theatres, if you’re not an avid movie-goer there are likely still several other recent releases that are and should be ahead of this one on your list. Go see Toy Story 4 or Aladdin or Spider-Man: Far From Home (my next review!) or Rocketman before seeing Yesterday, because of the movies out right now this one is the most “Redbox-worthy.” Cheers!

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