Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Ed Sheeran and Kate McKinnon
Yesterday had all the hallmarks of being one of 2019’s genuine cinematic treats. Danny Boyle directing a Richard Curtis script which is about a world in which only one person remembers The Beatles’ songs. That sounds pretty good to me. So why did the film end up being so… well… bad?
I really was asking myself this question upon exiting the cinema. I couldn’t wrap my head around how the film ended up being such a mess. Was it the script? Was it the film’s direction? Was it the acting? Was it the idea…? After having put a lot of thought into it, I came to the conclusion that it was a combination of all those things.
Good idea, poor execution
I didn’t write it. Paul McCartney wrote it, The Beatles wrote it.
Let’s start off with Richard Curtis’ idea. Imagine a world in which The Beatles’ music didn’t exist? Then imagine a world in which The Beatles’ music didn’t exist for everyone but one person. That sounds like quite a fascinating premise to build a story from.
However, what Richard Curtis ended up doing with that idea is writing a script with uninteresting characters, who’s love story is just as dull and everyone can tell that it should never work out between the two. Oh yeah, and he just threw The Beatles thing in there for good measure.
Then you get one of the world’s most exciting directors in Danny Boyle to helm the project. “That’s a fantastic idea,” you think at first, but what Boyle gave us is a bland, almost televisual film. It’s definitely, without a shadow of a doubt Boyle’s flattest, most anaemic film to date.
Did Danny Boyle really direct this? I can’t tell
Miracles happen all the time! Benedict Cumberbatch becoming a sex symbol!
There’s no visual flair apart from the odd Beatles-esc font which creeps up from time to time. Those moments aside, if you were to watch this film without knowing who the director was, I highly doubt that anybody would be able to guess it was a Danny Boyle picture.
Even Boyle’s lesser films have something interesting and unique about that. Take Trance, for instance, which I would argue was his worst film before this one came along. Even Trance has something to it. Something to latch on to. Yesterday has nothing and is utterly forgettable.
The two leads are fine and do their best with the material Boyle and Curtis dumped on them. Himesh Patel and Lilly James are rather charming in their roles, and they save the film from being a complete disaster – James in particular. But, then there’s their supposed ‘love story’, which I would argue is very weak. That’s not down to them. That’s down to Curtis’ writing, which is very, very poor.
It almost feels like he’s run out ideas. It feels as if this was an idea thought up in a pub, almost as a joke, between Curtis and Boyle, and Curtis went away to write it. I find it difficult to believe that one of Boyle’s demands when agreeing to direct the next Bond film was for them to let him finish this film.
It really does seem as though he was determined to get Yesterday finished, which is commendable, but rather puzzling. I would understand had he been making Slumdog Millionaire, Sunshine, or even The Beach (which is a far better film than people give it credit for). However, the fact that he was so adamant that he wanted to finish Yesterday is just bizarre.
Romance… What romance…?
It’s times like this I wish I hadn’t given up smoking. I could murder a cigarette.
Then there’s the central premise of having a world without The Beatles, which feels like it would make for a good short, but it just feels stretched out here. First, there’s the obvious fact that a world in which The Beatles’ music didn’t exist is a slightly problematic one because their music was so revolutionary.
They make a joke in the movie that Oasis didn’t exist, which makes sense since they were never inspired by The Beatles’ music. However, I would argue that most modern-day rock wouldn’t exist without The Beatles, so where do you draw the line? The film’s logic is a bit all over the place.
And then there’s the fact that James’ character, Ellie Appleton, first fell in love with Patel’s Jack Malik when he sang Wonderwall at a school talent show. However, in this new reality, Oasis never existed, so what happened to the moment when Ellie fell for him? This omission really had me pulling my hair out because it’s so obvious. Why have him sing Wonderwall as a kid? Why not choose another song?
Then there’s the fact that Jack is barely a fan of The Beatles. That also really confused me since you’d imagine they’d want a true fan of the group to take it upon himself to make sure their work was remembered somehow. Instead, it’s just a ploy for him to get famous quickly.
And then, there’s the nagging suspicion in the back of my mind that most of The Beatles’ songs wouldn’t go down that well in today’s modern age. But no, according to this film’s logic, all these songs would be instantly revered and Jack would be called a musical genius.
And then there’s Ed Sheeran… Oh dear…
Love your work, man.
Finally, to wrap this mess of a film up, we have Ed Sheeran failing miserably at attempting to play himself on-screen. It’s just embarrassing, and the way they get him in the movie is annoyingly convoluted.
Kate McKinnon also makes an appearance in this film as Ed Sheeran’s manager who takes on Jack. She’s doing exactly the same thing she always does. She playing a character who is in no way a real person. She’s a caricature of an LA-based manager who belongs in an SNL sketch rather than a Danny Boyle movie. She also keeps on making snide remarks about Jack’s appearance, yet she’s Ed Sheeran’s manager, and he’s no oil painting.
If you were to ask me to sum up Yesterday in one word, that word would have to be annoying. Everything about it is annoying. It should be so much better than it is, but I can’t help but feeling that it’s all a bit half-assed and poorly thought out.
Meanwhile, why not have a read of our articles on the five reasons why Tom Holland in the best Spider-Man ever, the five best movies in the MCU, and our explanation as to why Tomorrow Never Dies is the most underrated Bond movie ever.
You can also have a read of our reviews of Toy Story 4, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Aladdin, Detective Pikachu, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Avengers: Endgame, Hellboy and Glass.
In the meantime, why not catch up on your Beatles knowledge by listening to all of their songs, which you can purchase here!
Yesterday is in cinemas across the UK now.
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