By Alan Yudman
YESTERDAY is the definition of suspension of disbelief. The story is about a struggling musician living in Suffolk, England. He’s about ready to give up when he is hit by a bus while riding his bicycle home from a gig one night. When he wakes up, he slowly realizes he’s the only person in the world who has ever heard of The Beatles. He decides to capitalize on this by performing the Lennon/McCartney songs as his own. And when he does, he becomes a wildly successful, overnight sensation.
So, there are two things going on here. A romantic comedy where the struggling Jack (Himesh Patel) and his manager/friend Ellie (Lily James) can’t seem to figure out they are in love… or at least can’t close the deal. The other is how Jack is basically stealing the iconic Beatles songs to make a career for himself. At first, he’s dumbstruck no one knows the songs. Eventually he feels guilty for doing it. I think his motivation is artistic on some level, but that’s not clear in Richard Curtis’ muddled story.
Other things have disappeared with the Beatles. Coca Cola and cigarettes are two examples. But some things still exist that maybe shouldn’t in a world without the Beatles. For example, Coldplay and Ed Sheeran (who is in the movie as himself in a completely forgettable performance). But Curtis has erased Oasis, yet Ellie first falls for Jack when he plays “Wonderwall” when he’s a kid. Huh? How does that work? Like I said, suspension of disbelief.
Both Patel and James are very likeable. Patel does excellent covers of all the songs. He and James are a believable couple, something important in a romantic comedy. Kate McKinnon appears as an agent who signs Jack. I don’t know what movie she was in, but it wasn’t this one. Her performance completely blows everyone off screen when she shows up, and not in a good way. She’s loud, brash. slimy and annoying. I get that’s the agent stereotype, but it’s too over the top. ROCKETMAN did a similar thing in a much subtler and effective way.
YESTERDAY is a nice movie. Nice. Not wonderful. Not amazing. It’s enjoyable and it will renew your love for The Beatles, but it may frustrate you as much as makes you tap your toes to the songs.