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Yesterday – Movie Review

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Yesterday – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Universal Pictures

It’s a fascinating “what if” scenario to wonder what the world would be like without a certain part of popular culture. The Beatles is one of the most recognised and influential musical bands, so their absence from airwaves would certainly have quite the effect. Yesterday explores that by also focusing on the moral quandaries that would come from being the only person aware of unforgettable tunes like “A Hard Day’s Night” and “All You Need Is Love.” Director Danny Boyle, along with screenwriter Richard Curtis, imbues the film with a genuine love for these songs and their importance in our daily lives. There is a sweet-natured British sensibility that runs through Yesterday, allowing the audience to buy into its high concept.

In addition to the iconic Beatles songs, Boyle rests the film’s shoulders on lead actor Himesh Patel. Making his feature film acting debut, Patel is in almost every scene and has to convey many conflicting emotions as he deals with the baggage coming from this immense discovery. It’s a difficult task to portray someone both confident in his musical abilities and fretting his secret will be found out. He performs the songs well and the film also uses his character Jack as a vessel to talk about creativity and what inspires us to pick up a pen and write something. He shares a lot of his screentime with Lily James, who has proven herself one of the most charming young actresses working today.

Their chemistry is a major driving force in the plot and allows for many smile-worthy moments. Sentimentality is a familiar hallmark of Curtis’s writing and he uses it to good effect in Yesterday. The humour also works quite nicely, with multiple laugh-out-loud scenes coming from our preexisting knowledge of the Beatles’ catalogue. Boyle and Curtis especially have fun with showing how the Beatles aren’t the only parts of our every day lives that disappear. One revelation is particularly amazing and will make some audience members immediately want to move to this Beatles-less universe. As expected, the filmmakers also poke a bit of fun at the Los Angeles lifestyle and the price of fame.

Adding to the humour is Kate McKinnon providing plenty of laughs as an over-eager music agent and Ed Sheeran also has a go at its own image. While a few of Boyle’s usual visual flourishes occasionally pop up, he actually tones down much of his style for Yesterday. He seems more intent on letting his leads and the Beatles songs grab our attention. The film glides along in the way most viewers will expect, but there are some interesting plot twists thrown in that go back to the major theme of whether one would do what Jack does, if given the opportunity.

Yesterday ultimately takes an intriguing premise and runs with it. The filmmakers want to not only celebrate the music of the Beatles, but also tell a sweet and charming story about creativity and the relationship between two likeable young British people. It’s a sentimental formula that works in making one smile and not just because the songs are lovely. There are moral questions being addressed and whether someone would want to sacrifice one thing in place of another. It all depends on whether one can accept the “what if” concept and thankfully, the whole thing works quite nicely.

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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