Recently, I was fortunate enough to watch a screening of Danny Boyle’s new movie, Yesterday. Because it was a free fan screening – and not a press screening – the theater was packed, which allowed me to experience a miniature version of the sense of madness that surrounded the Beatles at the height of their fame.
The film follows Jack Malik, played by Himesh Patel, a struggling musician who seems to be the only person on Earth to remember the Beatles and their music. Privy to this knowledge, Jack starts to pass off the songs of John Lennon, Sir Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Sir Ringo Starr as his own. The story then revolves around Jack’s attempts to remember and recreate the Beatles’ songs, all while keeping his secret private, and navigating the personal alienation that comes with extraordinary success in the music industry.
The movie itself takes the form of the typical musician’s biopic, with much of the film’s emphasis being placed on the struggle and rise of said musician. However, the film adds originality in the mythos that emerges from the almost global disappearance of one of history’s favorite bands. Instead of the quintessential spiral into self-destructive debauchery, the film explores the personal and professional relationships that develop for successful musicians and shows the delicate balance that must be struck between the two. Although the film is mostly playful, with its pervasive British humor and ridiculous characters that seem all too real, it also has a sentimentality to it. The movie is meant to be a fun adventure into the world of music stardom, (albeit with the ticket to that adventure being the music of the Beatles), however it also shows that all things have a cost.
The supporting cast all do a wonderful job at bringing this story to life. Each brings their own idiosyncrasies, which allows for an overall authentic performance that is enjoyable to watch. Himesh Patel’s solid performance is complemented by the many charming characters around him. His faithful manager – and longtime only fan – Ellie, played by Lily James, proves to be the only support Jack has at the lowest points in his career. Ellie also plays a pivotal role in showing that there are always opportunity costs present when making major life choices. The chemistry between Himesh and Lily seemed authentic to that of two people with a friendship that spanned over ten years, as suggested in the film.
The two actors that play Jack’s parents, Meera Syal and Sanjeev Bhaskar; Joel Fry, Jack’s clueless roadie; and Kate McKinnon, Jacks second (and probably evil) manager in Hollywood, all add their own hilarious touches that make this movie what it is. Honorable mention goes to Ed Sheeran in his cameo performance. If the movie was a present, which for fans of the Beatles and/or Danny Boyle it may be, then Ed Sheeran’s scenes were like a tightly wrapped bow on top: a nice touch.
Danny Boyle, director of 127 Hours and Slumdog Millionaire, uses the excellent music of the Beatles, more than competent acting from his cast, and stylish camera angles, to put a pleasant twist on the typical musical biopic. The story by Jack Barth and screenplay by Richard Curtis lay a foundation for Boyle and company to build an entertaining one hour and fifty-six-minute feature.
Yesterday, above all, reminded me just how good the Beatles’ really were. That alone may be considered a victory for the movie that is comprised of many of the Fab Four’s greatest songs. The film also showed me the power that musical artists have on the way people think and feel, along with the baggage that can come along with widespread public success. Yesterday is a funny, stylish, and at times, sentimental movie that seems to be universally agreeable in the same vein of the Beatles.
Yesterday makes waves in theatres on June 28, 2019.