As a kid (and an adult), opening a present is extremely exciting, and before you get to see the gift you see the box. So, if you got a huge box wrapped in expensive wrapping, you know you are in for a treat. Imagine you open it and it’s empty, you’ll think well the box and wrapping are cute but where is the gift? And that is what you will be thinking after watching Yesterday.
Yesterday follows aspiring singer Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) who was just about to give up on singing, against his best friend and manager Ellie’s (Lily James) advice, when he gets hit by a bus during a worldwide blackout. When Malik wakes up, he realises that somehow The Beatles have never existed, and he is the only person who knows of their songs. As Malik performs The Beatles tunes, people are blown away and Malik quickly becomes the biggest musician of his time.
The question the film is supposedly asking is what would happen to the world if The Beatles never existed? However, while that question is asked, it is never answered; the film presents a barely changed version of the world with no noticeable effect on people or even the music industry other than a lack of knowledge of The Beatles. While not knowing The Beatles and their songs is huge, it does not really thoroughly answer the question that film asks with its imaginative concept, which is the film’s first wrong turn.
To its advantage, Yesterday uses many Beatles songs, but they go by so fast and are handled only as a reason of why Malik gets famous rather than as renditions of the songs the audience knows and loves. The nostalgia is there but kept to the minimum to leave room for the plot of Malik’s rise and his complex relationship with his best friend Ellie.
That is where another wrong turn is taken, because while Malik is an interesting character and his struggle to reveal or hide the truth about his songs is also interesting, it is not nearly as interesting enough as a film centred on what would the world be like without The Beatles or around the intricacies behind The Beatles’ human effect.
The love story between Malik and Ellie is sweet and not sappy, but has several major holes and is the film’s weakest link. While the rest of the plot relies on fantasy and can be somewhat pardoned of logical fallacies, the love story between these two characters is unaffected by that fantasy and should be logical and cohesive, rather than neatly and quickly wrapped up at the end.
For the acting, Himesh Patel made the character different and steered it away from down-on-his-luck, aspiring singer clichés. Patel’s vocals in covering The Beatles songs were also impressive and would have been more centre stage if it wasn’t for the way the film handled the songs. Lily James did more with her underdeveloped character than what was just on script, making her character lovable and believable despite the lack of depth from the writing. The film also features singer Ed Sheeran (as himself). This was a definitely a cool and interesting cameo.
Yesterday is a fun and cute movie with its heart and main concept in the right place, but the outcome is some cheeky jokes, a half-assed love story, and a quick run through of The Beatles’ most famous songs.