Imagine a world without The Beatles. Richard Curtis, the famed writer of movies best described as “low fantasy” – a subgenre of stories that exist in our world but with strong fantasy elements, like the time travel element of About Time or the whitewashed neighbourhood of Notting Hill – puts Jack Malik (Hamesh Patel) in an alternate timeline where the struggling musician gets into a freak accident during a nationwide power cut and wakes up to a world wherein only he remembers the iconic four-piece. He exploits the situation by performing the band’s beautiful songs and claiming songwriting credit, consequently whizzing his life to stardom and creating tension in his relationship with day-one manager Ellie (Lily James).
Whilst a world without The Fab Four is an infinitely worse world to live in, Curtis writes a hilarious script that tickles us with dramatic irony, especially in Ed Sheeran’s portrayal of a self-conceited version of himself. As always in the writer’s work, there’s a sweetness at the centre in the bond between Jack and Ellie, whose romantic feelings for the pseudo-Beatle are complicated by his roaring success, which whirls him away to LA where he’s signed to a record label. Logic should be applied in even the most unrealistic scenarios but the rules in this one remain fuzzy at best, leaving us with some questions about this other universe.
This is very much a damning critique on the popstar-churning, mass-marketed machine that is the contemporary music industry. Kate McKinnon, employing her range of comically maniacal wide-eyed expressions, plays snarky record label manager Deborah, who takes a no-holds-barred approach to signing the young sensation, with dollars on her mind.
The films of the Love Actually mastermind have never been renowned for aesthetics (in fact, they generally look flat) but director Danny Boyle breaks the cycle with his signature visual pizzazz. Full of the excited energy of a fan with Malikmania, Boyle uses the entire repertoire of his editing software and camera dolly capabilities to give us the zippy, dynamic viewing experience we have come to expect from him.
Yesterday has all the ingredients to be the feel-good movie of the year. Delightful and hilarious, the film is a crowd-pleaser worthy of the official cinematic Beatles canon alongside A Hard Day’s Night and Let It Be. The list of featured Beatles songs is long, and the list of tracks referenced during Jack’s plagiaristic journey is even longer. Casual and hardcore fans of the band will have plenty of fun. As for non-fans, do they even exist?
Yesterday is released nationwide on 28th June 2019.
Watch the trailer for Yesterday here: