Directed by: Danny Boyle
Starring: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Ed Sheeran, Kate McKinnon
Genre: Drama, Music, Comedy, Fantasy
Release date: 12 July, 2019
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Budget: $26 million
As a film that imagines a world without The Beatles, the script has a lot of unrealized potential, but still makes for a fun entertainer
Yesterday is a 2019 British romantic comedy film directed by Danny Boyle and written by Richard Curtis, based on an original screenplay by Jack Barth and Mackenzie Crook. It stars Himesh Patel as a struggling musician who, after an accident, finds himself the only person who remembers the Beatles; he becomes famous taking credit for writing and performing their songs. The film also features Lily James as Himesh’s love interest, Kate McKinnon as his manager, and Ed Sheeran as a fictionalized version of himself.
The project was announced in March 2018. Filming began the following month around England, particularly Suffolk. Photography also took place at Wembley Stadium, Principality Stadium and in Los Angeles. Getting the rights to include the Beatles’ music cost the filmmakers $10 million, and although none of the Beatles were involved in production, Boyle received blessings of the project from them and their families.
Yesterday had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on 4 May 2019, and was released in the United Kingdom on 28 June 2019, by Universal Pictures. The film received mixed reviews from critics, with praise for the premise, performances, light tone, and musical sequences, but criticism at the familiarity and simplicity.
Yesterday Movie Plot:
Jack Malik is a struggling singer-songwriter from Lowestoft. His manager and childhood friend Ellie begs him not to give up on his dreams. After Jack is hit by a bus during a global blackout, he discovers that no one else on Earth has heard of the Beatles. Jack begins performing their songs, claiming he wrote them, and records a demo with local music producer Gavin.
Following a performance on local television, Jack is invited by pop star Ed Sheeran to play as his opening act in Moscow. Ellie declines to join him, saying she has to work at her day job as a schoolteacher, so Jack’s roadie friend Rocky travels with him instead. After the gig, Jack is signed by Sheeran’s agent, Debra Hammer, and rises to global fame. At a party in Jack’s home, Ellie confesses that she has always been in love with him. Hoping to trigger more memories of Beatles songs, Jack goes to their hometown of Liverpool, visiting landmarks such as Strawberry Field, Penny Lane, and the grave of Eleanor Rigby.
Jack spends a drunken evening with Ellie and they kiss. However, Ellie tells him she is not interested in a one-night stand. The next morning, Jack and Rocky pursue Ellie to Liverpool train station but Ellie reminds Jack about making a choice between her and his career. Heartbroken, Jack returns to Los Angeles.
The record label prepares to launch Jack’s debut album. The producers reject his suggested titles, taken from Beatles records, and name the album One Man Only, pushing his talent. Jack persuades them to launch the album with a performance in Gorleston. Backstage, Jack is approached by two Beatles fans who tell him they know he plagiarized the songs; however, they thank him, fearing the music of the Beatles had gone forever. They give him the address of Beatle John Lennon, who has lived into old age. Jack asks John if he has led a successful life; John replies that he has led a happy life with his wife and tells him to chase the one he loves and to always tell the truth.
Ed arranges for Jack to perform at Wembley Stadium. Jack confesses to the crowd that he plagiarized the music and that he loves Ellie, and has Rocky upload the songs free to the internet, sabotaging the record release. Jack and Ellie marry and have a family together, and Jack becomes a music teacher.
Yesterday Movie Trailer:
Academy Award winning director Danny Boyle (of Slumdog Millionaire fame) and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Richard Curtis (of Four Weddings and a Funeral fame) come together to bring out a romcom that has rock-n-roll music, dreams, friendship, and love to draw on. This film features new versions of The Beatles’ most beloved hits while deriving from a hallucinatory construct that presupposes that they don’t exist.
For those who have loved The Beatles, this might not be amusing but it’s a rather harmless epiphany that rights itself before it can run out of ideas. When Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) a struggling singer-songwriter from a tiny English seaside town wakes up from a worldwide power outage followed by an accident, the people around him seem to have forgotten something. He talks to them about The Beatles but everyone including his childhood best friend cum manager Ellie (Lily James) doesn’t remember The Beatles. They actually think that no such band exists. So with a veritable goldmine of music at his disposal Jack goes ahead and performs – to the delight of music executives who see talent in his songwriting skills.
Ed Sheeran takes him to Moscow on his tour and the crowd goes wild, turning him into a social media phenomenon. And just when he is putting together songs like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Eleanor Rigby for The White Album he gets opposition from the music executive think-tank who suggest he might be overreaching by having a moniker that could garner criticism for its racist leanings and a song title that would be too much of a mouthful for today’s ‘instant’ generation.
The dialogues make for such subtle digs at the millennials that it’s not exactly laugh-out-loud humor but wryly ironic. Yesterday fails to develop its conceit beyond a point. In a world without The Beatles, everyone else in the pop culture hall of fame exists – so that’s a bit difficult to stomach. There’s not much idea either about how the world would have changed without The Beatles in it. The narrative prefers to turn it into a hard-won romance, running with cliches and made impossible by stereotypical hurdles. This is the kind of blinkered imagination we associate with under-developed scripting. But Boyle’s vaunted story-telling style, which also includes a stop and start music video sequence, and Curtis’ sly humour, more than make up for the ‘unrealised potential’ here.
Kate McKinnon as Debra, the music agent intent on transforming a defective talent into a would-be pop icon, has the funniest lines and the dead-pan demeanor to go with it. Lily James is pretty and believable as the love interest tirelessly slogging behind the scenes to make Jack’s dream come true. And Patel himself, though not much of a singer (other than his version of Help), draws on his ‘Eastenders’ experience to present a vulnerability that will pull you onto his side. This may not be thought-provoking cinema but it is certainly a feel-good, fairly dramatic and delightful entertainer!