Yesterday: Does Richard Curtis’ New Film Deliver?
Ben Peyton heads to see new film Yesterday. Will it be an endearing and entertaining new rom-com around the music of the Fab Four, or is Yesterday destined to be old news?
Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Richard Curtis
Starring: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Joel Fry, Kate McKinnon, Meera Syal, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Ed Sheeran.
A spiring musician Jack (Patel) is leading an ordinary life playing his mediocre songs to unresponsive audiences. For reasons unknown, a global blackout results in him suffering an accident and when he regains consciousness it appears that nobody, apart from him, has heard of The Beatles. Yep, the fab four are the forgotten four which leads to Jack facing a moral dilemma; should he pass their songs off as his own? Of course, he does and so, from Penny Lane to Strawberry Fields, Back in the USSR to I Saw Her Standing There, he quickly becomes a global phenomenon as he struggles to deal with fame, guilt and a world without Coca-Cola or cigarettes.
Yesterday follows most of the rules for a romantic comedy penned by Richard Curtis. Loveable loser lead? Check. Unrequited love? Check. Token quirky comedy friends? Check. All are present and correct and written with his usual style and wit to add another utterly delightful film to his already glowing CV. Director Danny Boyle makes full use of the fine catalogue of songs available to him and it’s a credit to him, the songs and Patel that the tunes sound absolutely fantastic, even stripped down to just an acoustic guitar, and make you realise just how much four young men from Liverpool changed the face of music.
Himesh Patel is perfectly cast as the fish out of water struggling to make sense of his new surroundings. He keeps the pace strumming along nicely and it’s a terrific showcase for his talents, both musically and artistically. Lily James shines as his former manager and love interest and together the pair have electric chemistry. Joel Fry provides the comic relief in his own inimitable way and Ed Sheeran, starring as himself, perhaps surprisingly isn’t out of place amongst the established cast and sends himself up to humorous effect. However, Kate McKinnon is unnecessarily over the top as a venomous music agent who sees Jack as a product rather than a person and her performance needed to be toned down.
A fantasy film such as this will always throw up the odd issue. Would Jack really be that oblivious to his best friend being in love with him for so many years? And Mancunians are probably going to be up in arms about a certain band being deleted from history, while Mr Sheeran and others survive? But these are minor quibbles so let’s not look back in anger.
With strong performances at its heart and a fine soundtrack (was it going to have anything but?!) Yesterday is a terrifically feel-good romp proving that music can unite people and once it’s over, all you need is love.
Ben Peyton is a former actor (a regular in The Bill) and now a full-time husband, dad and film critic living in Surrey. You can visit Ben at his website, www.benpeytonreviews.com and follow him on Twitter @BenPeyton007.