Here’s a movie that asks a curiously fascinating question: What if you are the only one on Earth who knows about The Beatles and even able to sing their songs? That’s the setup cooked up by the rom-com specialist Richard Curtis (1994’s Four Weddings and a Funeral, 1999’s Notting Hill and 2003’s Love Actually) and directed with an amazing verve by Danny Boyle — easily his best movie to date since 127 Hours in 2010.
But before we go in-depth with the review, here’s the brief synopsis about Yesterday: Himesh Patel plays Jack Malik, a struggling musician who can’t seem to catch a big break even with all the efforts done by her childhood friend-cum-manager Ellie (Lily James).
Then one night, something remarkably bizarre happens when Jack gets accidentally hit by a bus following a sudden global blackout. While he manages to live, Jack finds himself waking up to an unexpected moment where he’s the only one know the music of The Beatles, let alone their existence. None of his close buddies and even Ellie know what’s he talking about. Soon, he takes the opportunity to memorise all the famous Beatles songs and start playing them in various venues until one day, he is subsequently discovered by Ed Sheeran (yes, the singer himself appeared in a small role) as well as Sheeran’s music agent, Debra (Kate McKinnon).
Yesterday benefits from a terrific ensemble, with both TV’s EastEnders actor Himesh Patel along with Lily James particularly stand out the most with their wonderful chemistry. Individually speaking, Patel’s major film debut is no doubt a breakthrough performance, exuding a likeable charm while proving himself to be quite a singer regardless of belting out original (“The Summer Song”) or the Beatles songs. Lily James is equally charming with her sweet-natured role as Debra while supporting actors like Ed Sheeran, Kate McKinnon and particularly, Joel Fry brings a worthy comic relief to his roadie role as Rocky.
Boyle’s direction is a crowd-pleaser, making good use of both casts as well as Curtis’ unusual premise and all of the Beatles numbers featured in the movie. Listening to some of the Beatles’ evergreen songs like “Hey Jude”, “Let It Be” and “Yesterday” on the big screen really brings back a lot of good memories, particularly if you are a huge fan of the Fab Four. But even if you are not, the feel-good vibe that appeared throughout its breezy 2-hour length really hits all the right notes.
While Yesterday certainly had a field day amping up the nostalgia factor, let’s not forget that the movie also succeeds as a heartfelt romantic comedy. Again, the undeniable chemistry between Himesh Patel and Lily James really help sell their roles and making us — well, at least for me — invested over their characters. Sure, the “love conquers all” undertone towards the end of the movie may have been awfully familiar. In fact, it’s already been done to death and yet, it was executed beautifully.
If there’s any flaw about Yesterday, one would argue that Curtis’ script never really explore further about the consequences of Jack Malik being the only person who knows about The Beatles, even though it does come with a twist or two. Still, I really enjoyed Yesterday — no doubt the most feel-good and among the best movies in 2019 I’ve ever come across so far. So, do yourself a favour, go watch the movie in the cinema and relive the moments of listening to The Beatles songs all over again.