Yesterday - This Fab Movie Rocks
Dir: Danny Boyle
Starring Himesh Patel, Lily James, Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran (yes, THAT Ed Sheeran), Joel Fry
Imagine there’s no Beatles It’s not really easy if you try. But Richard Curtis gave it a go anyway. Got Danny Boyle on board – and what a result!
Yesterday is not so much about yesterday as an alternative now – what would the world be if The Beatles suddenly ceased to exist? A pretty shittier place, I think we can all agree (and if you don’t – stop reading now.)
Jack (Patel – little Tamwar from EastEnders that was) is a struggling singer-songwriter going nowhere (man) until all the power in all the world switches off for 12 seconds, he hits a bus, loses two teeth and wakes up the only person in the world who can remember the Fab Four that never were. (Screenwriter Richard Curtis makes the joke than the only other band who never exited were Oasis – cheeky git – can’t see the connection ourselves.)
So Jack sets out to re-deliver the works of such titans to humanity once again? Or base his career on ripping off the greatest pop band of all time? That’s the moral quandary of Curtis’s script, something he turned over to the knowledgeable eye and reassuring hands of Danny Boyle. These two giants of contemporary British cinema have never struck as an obvious match – compare Four Weddings with Trance, Love Actually with Trainspotting, actually – but damn, are the pop lovers kindred spirits here. Boyle keeps his customary visual energy and flourishes to a minimum (though they are there) and pays complete service to Curtis’ delightful script, which knows how to take an intriguing idea and build and build on it. What results is a movie that exalts the beauty of the best songbook of all time, makes it relevant, makes it deeply romantic and – you’d expect no less – brilliantly funny.
As with all Curtis’ best work – and less so Boyle’s – this is a film that just gets funnier and funnier the further it digs into its premise, keeping some of its best gags right up until its final moments. And again, as with all Curtis’ best work – and definitely less so Boyle’s – it’s a genuinely romantic film. (Does make you wonder if it was Boyle’s idea to put the “airport run” – they’re always one - in the middle though, rather than the end.)
All this estimable work is aided and abetted by a fine cast. Himesh Patel declares himself a serious threat as Jack. Able to bring the musical sequences realistically to life, one of his great strengths is he provides an everyman voice to these songs we all know so well, emphasising how, in this science fiction tinged other world, these songs belong to everyone. As indeed they do. Ed Sheeran also acquits himself admirably – the look of sheer envy on his face when he hears The Long And Winding Road for the first time and declares himself Salieri to Jack’s Mozart is perfectly delivered.
But it is Lily James who steals everything. How anyone in their right mind could ever put a woman who delivers this delightful a performance in the friend zone is made believable – if frustrating – by how effortless a performer she seems to be.
Just about the best romcom since About Time (yes, we know – Curtis’ last heart-warmer/breaker) this is much more.
An examination of creativity, a look at the ownership of creativity, a look at the way the soundtrack of our lives shapes our lives that ultimately asks – if these songs end up being sung at school assemblies, what’s wrong with that?
Oh, and did we mention the soundtrack? Doesn’t suck!
If Yesterday does nothing else, it does one wonderful thing. It confirms that the songs of The Beatles really don't belong to them anymore. They're ours.