Review: Yesterday – all its troubles aren’t quite so far away…

Richard Curtis has made a return to the big screen, this time partnering up with Danny Boyle, director of classics including Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire and 127 hours.

The combination has produced Yesterday, a film centred on the idea that the music of the Beatle’s never existed and is completely forgotten by everyone, all except one.

Himesh Patel, of EastEnders fame, makes his film debut as Jack Malik, a struggling musician who cannot seem to break out of his sleepy town of Lowestoft.

Whilst cycling home one night, a mysterious worldwide blackout takes place, during which he is hit by a bus and wakes up, to his bemusement, as the only one who can remember the Beatles.

With the help of his also oblivious manager Ellie, portrayed by Lilly James from Darkest Hour and Downton Abbey, Jack attempts to reboot his music career with the help of some of the greatest songs ever written.

Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Love Actually) brings his trademark charm to this outing, along with his casual screenplay and subtly wonderful ideas.

Yesterday plays on the theme very well, not only through the Beatles but also with other items unable to withstand the test of the blackout, such as Coca-Cola and cigarettes.

A particular favourite is the disappearance of Oasis, who of course were heavily influenced by the Fab Four.

Jack’s attempts to remember the lyrics of certain songs throughout the film is a joy to watch, as is Patel’s performance in general who refuses to be overwhelmed by his film debut.

Other notable mentions include Kate McKinnon as sleazy agent Debra Hammer and Joel Fry as Rocky, the loveable, dim-witted roadie.

Despite the strength of the theme and the several positives the film produces, there are a few issues that are difficult to be ignored.

One such problem is the character of Ellie. Lilly James does a great job with the role but the character herself is frustrating.

It’s obvious from the start of the film that Lilly is in love with Jack and spends much of the film almost pining for him, waiting for him to finally open his eyes and acknowledge her love.

It comes across as quite one dimensional and takes a lot away from what could have been a more interesting, complex character.

It doesn’t rub off well on Jack either, who’s oblivious to a love so obvious that even the audience in the cinema were sighing in frustration of his ignorance.

And as good as the acting is, we need to address the elephant in the room that is Ed Sheeran. In his defence, he isn’t an actor but then again this emphasised just that.

You could tell he was trying to be a more sarcastic version of himself but sadly, he didn’t quite pull it off, unlike in Bridget Jones’ Diary which he did brilliantly.

Finally, as great as the central theme was, I felt as if it wasn’t shown enough. There was too much emphasis on the generic love story that forced the more interesting aspects of the film to take a back seat.

I feel more could have been done as well, such as playing around with the songs, perhaps one becoming more popular than the other, or Jack coming up with his own fictional inspiration for Let It Be or Come Together.

Despite its foibles, the message of the film is a very uplifting one, with one of the best scenes of the film telling us that life is worse without the Beatles and their music.

Overall, the film plays safe and misses an opportunity to be more experimental. That being said, it remains very enjoyable and is an ideal easy-going, Sunday-afternoon film.

Yesterday is definitely a feel-good film worth watching but as suggested by the title, it’s troubles aren’t quite so far away. 

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