After the latest success of Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen) and Rocketman (Elton John), it was only a matter of time before The Beatles received a big screen do-over.
Writer and Director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) brings his unique talents to an interpretation of the Beatles hits with a romantic and surprisingly off-beat comedy, Yesterday.
In his feature film debut, Eastenders star Himesh Patel takes centre stage as Jack Malik, a down on his luck singer and songwriter who can’t find success with his original songs.
Manager and long time friend Ellie Appleton (Lily James) is the the one constant supporter by his side at gigs, encouraging Jack and providing him with an unrequited love. Jack questions his talent and prospects in life and decides to give up.
But then an unexplained power outage leaves the entire world in darkness for 12 seconds. Jack get hit by a bus. When he comes to the entire works of The Beatles and other pop culture entities have been wiped from everyone else’s memories.
So with the knowledge of almost every Beatles song in the catalog and the talent to perform them, Jack sets out to transform his career by claiming the works of John, Paul, George and Ringo as his own.
The story tackles issues of redemption for Jack’s best friend Rocky (Joel Fry), self gratifying money grabbing by Jack’s Manager Debra (Kate McKinnon in a display of all that’s wrong with modern music), and the cliched girl-loves-boy-but-boy-doesn’t-realise-it tale between Jack and Ellie. But with Richard Curtis (Love Actually) as one of the writers, we should expect this type of romantic silver screen outing.
It’s a well worn story, but it’s the long and winding road that we take to get there (via the Beatles hits) that make this an enjoyable trip.
Whether or not the film ultimately sings, Boyle has given us something different. Patel, an accomplished musician and singer in his own right, does an admirable job performing these well loved songs for another generation.
Some will be disappointed that their favourite Beatles classic is not seen here, while others will be singing along carefree in the theatre as Patel gives it his all. Composer Daniel Pemberton (Steve Jobs) brings to life a score that is heavily influenced by the works of Lennon/McCartney.
The chemistry between Patel and James is genuine, and while James is also an accomplished singer, she’s unfortunately not given a wider singing part.
Yesterday is an entertaining and imaginative film using the Beatles catalog to tell a love story. With such an interesting premise, the film could have gone anywhere with the magical and meaningful world that had been created through these classic songs. It feels as though Boyle is at times holding back from what he could really do creatively, and thus the film lacks that standing ovation that it so could have achieved.
Those with a keen eye will spot two of Britain’s finest comedians in Meera Syal and Sanjeev Bhaskar (both from The Kumars at No. 42) as Jack’s uninterested parents, with appearance by Boyle favourite and film regular Robert Carlyle in a surprising cameo. An amusingly self deprecating Ed Sheeran plays a version of himself as he floats in and out of Jack’s rockstar journey.
This movie should propel Patel onto bigger things. It will also be embraced by the many thousands of Beatles of fans around the world. Dust off The White Album, fire up Sgt Pepper’s and take a ride on the Yellow Submarine.
7.5 out of 10