So, what’s the film about?
It’s hard to imagine a world without the magic of The Beatles – just try and picture a wedding without ‘Hey Jude’ being screamed by drunk uncles, or a road trip without ‘Here Comes the Sun’ – but director Danny Boyle is making us live out our biggest nightmare, with some help from screenwriter Richard Curtis. In Yesterday, small-time twentysomething musician Jack is gigging to bored pub-dwellers and empty audiences with his manager-slash-best-friend Ellie (who, by the way, is completely in love with him) along for the ride. But after he’s knocked out during a random global blackout, he wakes up to learn that The Beatles just aren’t a thing – but he still remembers all their songs perfectly. So, he does what we’d all do in that situation: he passes their songs off as his own. Fame comes quickly, but at what cost?
Who stars in it?
The main talking point in any Richard Curtis or Danny Boyle film is this: who will play the leading man? Collectively they made stars of Ewen McGregor, Domnhall Gleeson, Dev Patel and Hugh Grant. And this time, they’ve gone for Himesh Patel as Jack, probably best known to EastEnders fans Tamwar Masood (and yes, he has Londbottomed), who proves he has all the charm, wit and self-effacing energy to be a classic Brit lead. Alongside him is Lily James who, as usual, is great in a supporting role and manages to do well with a painfully stereotypical character. SNL’s Kate McKinnon makes an appearance as Jack’s American manager, and Ed Sheeran also stars as the person who helps with Jack’s rise to meteoric fame. He is, rather wonderfully, more than happy to take the piss out of his own image (at one point he suggests ‘Hey Jude’ would sound much better as ‘Hey Dude’).
Will I like it?
There’s more to this film than just a comedic look at the world without the greatest band of all time – it’s essentially a deeper look at what success really means, and the ultimate cost of it. It’s witty, sharp and observational (to an extent), and Patel and James have that great chemistry that Curtis is known for harbouring.
But like Curtis’s About Time, there are many parts of this film you can question – the major point being that if The Beatles were the driving force and inspiration to so many subsequent bands, why do they all still exist in this alternate universe? Still, it’s best to treat Yesterday the same way you’d treat a watching About Time: don’t think too hard about the mechanics of it, and you’ll enjoy it.
The combination of director and screenwriter brings about a pleasing balance: it has the romantic Britishness of a Richard Curtis film, but with the edge of classic Danny Boyle movie (not to the level of Trainspotting, mind – that would be a very different film). But if nothing else, it’ll reignite your love of The Beatles. Like Bohemian Rhapsody before it, there’ll be many moments of realisation about just how many Beatles songs you actually know and love. And like us, you’ll no doubt rush home and The White Album.
Yesterday is out now.
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