“Yesterday” was directed by Danny Boyle and stars Himesh Patel, Lily James, Joel Fry, Kate McKinnon and Ed Sheeran. The film is about a musician named Jack who wakes up into a world that does not know that The Beatles existed, which leads to him performing their songs and earning all of the acclaim for it.
When I first saw the trailer, I was immediately sold on this premise. The whole concept felt so unique and intriguing, but since then my hype for the movie minorly faded. The more I thought about the idea, the more it felt like it would fall flat on making much sense or bringing anything all that exceptional to the table. But regardless, the trailer seemed to ooze fun, and if the film was simply fun, I could live with that.
Boyle, for the most part, manages to explain the premise just enough to get me sold, and to do so in a fun way that never feels over or under explained. There were exceptions to this, which I will eventually get to, but on the whole “Yesterday” did a better-than-expected job on working out the world forgetting The Beatles, and did it with a few great twists to the concept along the way.
Patel, for his first role in a film, is quite good throughout. Sure, the character of Jack is a very plain individual, but Patel makes that into someone who is relatable, and he also has a very good singing voice to go along with the persona.
Because of Patel’s strong work, the musical element of this film works very well. It’s not quite The Beatles level, but the renditions are fun and upbeat, and make for some of the better scenes in the movie.
If there is a major highlight that this film has, it is 100 percent Kate McKinnon. I did enjoy Fry, and Sheeran actually impressed me more than expected, but it is McKinnon’s role as Jack’s manager that brings the most comedy and liveliness to the entire film. McKinnon just continues to shine in pretty much anything she does, and her presence makes a big difference in this movie.
“Yesterday” can often be summarized by calling it a pretty fun movie. It sounds overly simple, but it is mostly a film that breezes by and manages to be likable but not lovable, and usually without falling below a positive threshold.
But that is not to say there are not places where “Yesterday” could improve.
Boyle keeps the film about half-focused on the wild premise, with the other half spent going into the complex relationship of Jack and Lily James’ Ellie. This also happens to be the movie’s biggest mistake.
James is a very good actress — she has proved that enough in “Cinderella” and “Baby Driver” — but her character does not allow her to show it. Ellie comes off as annoying and absurdly self-centered, a look that I certainly can’t blame on the actress playing the part.
Romance and will-they-won’t-theys are very common, but watching James’ character get angry at her best friend’s success and bring up a romantic relationship only after Jack becomes famous is not an arch that works for this movie.
Sheeran is mostly good, especially with his few jokes either done by him or about him, but he also needs to think a little less of himself. You are not a God writer, my man, usually your stuff is pretty corny and all over the same handful of ideas.
As far as the concept goes, I am glad the ideas weren’t over explained, but there’s a few twists that I wish were better explained. They are clever and caught me off guard, but because the movie is not here to answer anything, I am left with a slew of questions involving continuity.
“Yesterday” is a fun movie that uses its clever concept well enough to get a passing grade. Nothing blew me away, but there was nothing that set the film back all too much, aside from wasting far too much time on a relationship with a, sadly, unlikable supporting character.
The music is fun, the movie feels like a breeze most of the time, and, if you are a massive Beatles fan, many of the flaws of “Yesterday” can be overlooked if your brain is turned only slightly off.