Yesterday is a really nice movie. It is nice to mix in a light, cheeky film amongst the serious dramas, R rated films and big ass action movies. There will always be a place for lighthearted fun and it will always be a bonus when it comes as an enjoyable celebration of music, happiness and love.
The premise is a great one, and your fulfillment on the execution will vary. I can see how someone would be underwhelmed by it. It doesn’t dive too deep into the butterfly effect of what would happen, hypothetically, if The Beatles never existed and how that would play out in a larger pop culture sense. It isn’t like without The Beatles that hair metal, grunge and nu-metal never existed. Jack isn’t going to be dying under the weight of guilt for plagiarizing these songs to the point he ends the film dying of a heroin overdose in a motel bathtub. It’s just a world without The Beatles. Maybe they got erased by Thanos. Who knows?
It’s a light fun rom-com that is funny and touching, so your execution of the premise is going to be in alignment with that or you get left with a mess tonally.
That isn’t to say the movie is empty calories. They do well on the premise. They take it seriously without it being too serious and having the whole movie be cotton candy and rainbows.
A nice directorial style gives it some extra flavour. Definitely some of those kinds of scenes where you can tell Danny Boyle meticulously planned from the second he thought of it to getting it to execution and to the edit. Its nice to see directors be able to flex their creativity with style and meaning. Its important to the art of directing to get those flexes. A nice eye-gasm.
The movie delivers on a few nice alternate universe shenanigans. If The Beatles are gone, then what else is missing? Did Pokemon ever exist? Did The Rock stick in the CFL and never become a pro wrestling icon and mega movie star? Did politicians find some morality? Makes you wonder what else is missing.
The story is basic but that isn’t a problem. I can’t emphasize this enough. It’s a benefit in my eyes. It’s a feel good movie. It doesn’t do anything dumb. It’s a bit silly, and it’s meant to be. It’s a rom-com, but it doesn’t make you want to gag. It tells a simple story but an effective one that has a lesson to it. When a simple message is told effectively it is nevertheless uplifting anyway.
Without the cast however, this movie probably would come up short. The cast is great and you find yourself engaged by their chemistry. When characters work so well together and give such strong performances it raises the material. Himesh Patel is excellent as the lead, Jack, and his chemistry with Lily James as Ellie is so charming that it feels real.
It was also nice to see someone of a different race and “normal looking” in the lead. He does a great job being a schlub and you’re rooting for him. Just adds a bit of spice to the story so it isn’t just another “white guy with an acoustic guitar wants to get famous” thing as everyone I think knows that guy and wants to vomit when they think of him.
Himesh Patel is also actually singing the songs. He’s actually the one playing the guitar. And he’s actually the one playing piano. No trickery involved. Give the man a standing ovation.
The supporting cast does their job well. Joel Fry is a fun burnout friend, Jack’s other friends feel like real people, and his parents are cute and hilarious. Ed Sheeran isn’t obnoxious as celebrities playing themselves can often be.
The comedy in the movie is great and feels a lot like how friends rib each other. Jokes are best in these situations when they feel like the real kind of barbs you toss between friends. While some of the satire is clearly satire, at the same time it also clearly isn’t satire. Or at the least, probably not quite as satirical as someone more naïve to the corporate workings of the entertainment industry would believe.
Kate McKinnon is probably the most “unrealistic” character in the film and comes across as if a parody cranked up to 11. But I wouldn’t be surprised if she isn’t as much a parody as she seems. The corporate management and marketing side of the music industry is pretty ruthless and gross. Underneath all the humour paint is undoubtedly how every musician feels they are valued and treated by the suits and ties up in the board room.
The movie itself is pretty much the perfect length as well. It is paced well so it doesn’t drag. Good music in a film makes things good too, and none of the songs last too long. The pops of music always do a good job to pick you up, and when at the climax it gives it and goes. Boom done, here’s your 2 minute epilogue. Bravo.
More movies need to learn the lessons of brevity.
Its so weird how everyone can acknowledge how great the songs of The Beatles are, but for most people you can fall off and forget about them without something to jog your memory and stick them back in.
Yesterday is a charming movie. It isn’t an all-time classic, but not everything has to be. That’s something nice about films like this and Stuber. They’re great ways to spend a down evening that don’t require much/any knowledge prior, keep you engaged through their story, and then leave you in a good place to have some fun conversations about the film. That’s fun.