Well this is as close as we’ve gotten to a Beatles biopic to-date, but with Freddie Mercury and Elton John out of the way I feel we are inching closer and closer each day.
“Yesterday” tells the story of a down-on-his-luck musician (Himesh Patel) who, following an accident, is suddenly the only person in the world who knows about the band The Beatles, and starts to pass their songs off as his own. Danny Boyle directs as Lily James, Joel Fry, Ed Sheeran and Kate McKinnon also star.
I would say the Beatles are my favorite band of all-time (but then again, shouldn’t the best band of all-time be everyone’s favorite?) and one day I hope we get a biopic film on their legacy (unless its a PG-13 by-the-numbers endeavor like “Bohemian Rhapsody” in which case, keep it). Whether or not you think the Beatles are the greatest band ever, it is undeniable that they have some the most popular songs of all-time and their effect on pop culture is still being felt today. “Yesterday” tries its best to honor that legacy and while it is probably just another rom-com dressed up in Beatles wrapping paper, I really enjoyed myself watching this film.
British humor is always hit-or-miss with me, with some of their products being hilarious (anything by Edgar Wright and Ricky Gervais, for example) but other times not so much (“Death at a Funeral”). This is a product that falls into the former category, with many of the mean quips and quick retorts landing. There are several laugh out loud moments in here, and partnered with Danny Boyle’s signature editing style things move along at a brisk pace.
All the performances are solid, with leading man Himesh Patel and the always adorable Lily Collins sharing some cute, if not painfully real, scenes together. Ed Sheeran has a few scenes playing a fictionalized version of himself and I always love when celebrities do that in movies and shows, and Kate McKinnon is amusing, if not slightly overbearing, as a money-greedy manager.
The selling point of this film is its plot and its music, and they’re both entertaining. The idea that no one has ever heard of the Beatles is instantly interesting and the film also has one related running gag that is perfectly spaced out and appears just the right amount of times. Also, even if it isn’t them singing them, any time you hear any Beatles song, especially in succession like this, you can’t help but smile.
Now for the most part, there is nothing inherently wrong with this film, except it maybe doesn’t take its premise as far as it could/should. It is kind of predictable and one-note once you shed the allure of the Beatles songs away from it, but I thought the script was sharp (enough) and the actors sufficiently cute and emotional that I didn’t mind very much. There is one (bold) move done by the filmmakers that I am interested to see the public respond to, however. While I personally do not have much problem with it, I can very easily see people hating the choice and there is something about the move that took even me a second to digest. This is just one scene in the film but it is one that will probably be discussed for a time to come.
“Yesterday” very well may be blinding me from more of its flaws with my love for the Beatles and their music, but even from a romantic comedy perspective I think there is plenty here that works. It is an easy breezy watch with an obviously great soundtrack and charming cast, and with things like that, you know it can’t be bad.
Critic’s Rating: 8/10
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