Movies & TV / Reviews

Yesterday Review

June 28, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Yesterday 2019 Movie
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
Yesterday Review  

Directed By: Danny Boyle
Written By: Richard Curtis and Jack Barth
Runtime: 116 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for suggestive content and language

Himesh Patel – Jack Malik
Lily James – Ellie Appleton
Joel Fry – Rocky
Alexander Arnold – Gavin
Kate McKinnon – Debra Hammer
Sanjeev Bhaskar – Jed Malik
Meera Syal – Sheila Malik
Ed Sheeran – Himself

Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle teams up with Love Actually and About Time filmmaker Richard Curtis for a dynamic, poignant dramatic comedy with a cosmic touch. Yesterday is the story of an aspiring, down-on-his-luck musician Jack Malik (Patel), who is struggling to jumpstart his music career. However, his longtime best friend and part-time manager, Ellie (James), can only scrounge up gigs at the local pub or the kids’ tent at a music festival. Jack is nearly at the end of his rope, but the universe intervenes when Jack is hit by a bus at a moment when all the power and lights in the world shut down.

Jack manages to survive the crash fairly intact. Upon awakening, Jack realizes he’s the only one who remembers The Beatles, their songs and their music. For some reason, the world was struck by some sort of universe-altering event where The Beatles never got together and became rock music legends. So, Jack makes the only sane decision anyone would make: copy all the songs of The Beatles, deliver them to the world, pass them off as his own and become a music superstar.

While Jack might not be the iconic collective that was The Fab Four, he is still a talented and skilled singer and guitarist. Eventually, Jack gains access to a recording studio and starts recording Beatles music and songs to a world that is totally ignorant of their influence. He soon gains the attention of Ed Sheeran (played by himself here) and becomes his opening act before signing with a manipulative and aggressive Los Angeles talent manager Debra (McKinnon). It looks like Jack’s dreams of a music career and superstardom are poised to take off, but Jack experiences conflict while performing music that is not his own. Not to mention, the life of a music rock star means leaving his best friend, Ellie, behind.

Himesh Patel’s Jack Malik is a real discovery for this film. He comes off as an affable, believable everyman. He’s just trying to pursue his dreams and seems to luck into a golden goose scenario. Jack’s attempt in basically “stealing” the songs of The Beatles is not done with malicious intent. Patel is great in this film, and hopefully, this will serve as his breakout role.

Boyle and Curtis do a great job in dealing with a film that has a slightly supernatural, possibly sci-fi, aspect. Much like Curtis’ previous film, About Time, the cosmic phenomenon is there. It’s a part of the story, but the narrative doesn’t hinge on it. It’s really only an incidental element to enable the journey for Jack Malik. They don’t try to dwell on the phenomenon or change it. It’s as if the world has experienced a form of time travel that altered various events. In that time alteration, Jack is one of the only people who realizes certain events have changed.

Perhaps it was the trauma of the bus crash. Maybe it’s an actual case of the Mandela Effect, but Jack wakes up in a world where The Beatles and their classic songs never existed. In addition, asking for a “Coke” means something very different from requesting a can of a carbonated beverage. These types of jokes are peppered throughout the film and are quite clever. Basically, it’s a narrative device, and Boyle and Curtis don’t waste entire scenes to explain how this works. That is to the film’s benefit.

Another major part of the film is the relationship between Jack and Ellie (James). Ellie is Jack’s longtime friend, and there are obvious hints of something more between the two. There are some scenes where the burgeoning romance does lack a certain subtlety. A few of the couple’s scenes could have been tightened or abbreviated, but it’s not a subpar relationship. Ellie was always supportive of Jack’s career and music, but his meteoric rise to superstardom risks tearing them apart. Could the film have downplayed the relationship? Yes. That said, Ellie constitutes a good centering influence and conscience for Jack. As The Beatles sang, “All you need is love.”

Yesterday makes good use of The Beatles’ music, and this is a fun, entertaining movie. It’s anchored by charming actors and performances by Himesh Patel and Lily James. It’s a good “what if” type of story and is another nice piece that exemplifies Danny Boyle’s versatility as a filmmaker.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Yesterday is a fun, charming film about what would happen if an individual woke up in a world where The Beatles and their music no longer existed, but that person still has all the memories of The Beatles' iconic influence. It features a fine cast of likable, charming characters and a strong, breakout performance by Himesh Patel.