All Yesterday actually managed to do was to remind me how much I love The Beatles
Yesterday is a clear attempt at creating an all British, all popular piece of film, using music, actors, a director, and a screenwriter that could all be at least considered as the most popular in their respective fields. Richard Curtis is perhaps the most respected and well known British screenwriter of all time, and Danny Boyle could easily be considered the most notable British director currently producing features; add in Ed Sheeran and the music of the greatest band of all time, The Beatles, and Yesterday becomes an enormous ball of popular art creators and creations. But being popular certainly doesn’t guarantee critical success.
Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is a struggling singer-songwriter living in Lowestoft on the East English coast, finding it difficult to come to terms with the position he finds himself in. Managed by secret admirer Ellie (Lily James), Jack is too self absorbed to notice her love, pushing her away at every opportunity. Until one cycle home from a particularly unsuccessful festival leaves him injured from a crash with a bus, and the only person in the world who remembers The Beatles.
For all of its sheer creative power, all Yesterday actually managed to do was to remind me how much I love The Beatles. Naturally, their songs are littered throughout the feature, and Danny Boyle even noted how they were given a wonderful package of selecting any 17 songs he liked from their complete catalogue. And his selections are shrewd and well chosen, but that isn’t immediately difficult when their songs stretch through so many emotions, and so many powerful themes.
There’s a few unique moments added with style and word animation, but largely the songs bring their own power and feeling. As for the rest of the film, there’s much to be desired, and really becomes underlined by how brilliant the songs are. Himesh Patel and Lily James are perfectly capable leads, but the piece they are given to explore is one that simply wants to be liked by as much of the public as possible.
Bringing in Ed Sheeran in an acting role far beyond his capabilities and constantly name dropping like the spread of helicopter seeds, Yesterday becomes a mash up of British nostalgia and populist likeability, resulting in a feature that doesn’t do anything of its own accord. It feels too collaborative and too unnatural, as if every creative decision was made for someone else.
Yesterday is far from a bad film, and, in fact, comes across as an astutely well made production. But that doesn’t mean it’s interesting or well made enough to match the loveability and timelessness of The Beatles tracks it throws about so often.
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