Movie Review: ‘Yesterday’ never knows
The film title, “Yesterday,” is ironic.
The film is about a today when the only person who seems to remember The Beatles and knows the Fab Four’s songs is down-on-his luck folksinger Jack Malik (Himesh Patel). When Jack plays his own original songs, he’s used to performing for one person at a beachside gig, a few friends at a pub and gets by with a little help from his daytime job at a retail discount warehouse store. Jack begins playing Beatles’ songs. He becomes a one-man Beatles’ cover band and worldwide web sensation. He’s the Fab One.
The film is a about a tomorrow when the pop-rock band, The Beatles, never existed.
The film’s premise is as preposterous as conspiracy theorists who believe that 12 United States NASA astronauts never walked on the Moon in the nine Apollo missions (December 1968 - December 1972).
The film’s premise is as preposterous as the theory that William Shakespeare didn’t write his own plays, but any of some 80 authorship candidates could have, including William Stanley, Sixth Earl of Derby.
Of course, The Beatles (1960-1960), said to be the world’s greatest pop band, existed and wrote, recorded and played their own songs.
However, across the universe in “Yesterday,” when the lights go out for some 13 seconds worldwide and Jack is hit by a minibus while riding his bicycle, he awakens in the hospital, sans two front teeth and recuperating from other injuries. Jack’s offhand Beatles’ references go “whoosh” over the head of his female friend, the appropriately and punily named Ellie Appleton (Lily James).
It isn’t only Ellie and Jack’s friends who never heard of The Beatles. When Jack Googles The Beatles, images and text about beetles appear in his search. There are other humorous “mishappenstances.” For instance, Coca-Cola doesn’t exist. Pepsi, yes. But no Coke.
Other funny references to “a world without ... “ are sprinkled throughout the film. To reveal them would spoil your enjoyment of the film as would a disclosure about a big reveal toward the end of the film.
The screenplay by Richard Curtis (“About Time,” 2012; “Love Actually,” 2003; “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” 1994) based on a story by Curtis and Jack Barth (British TV’s “The Fabulous Picture Show,” 2011) is smart, funny and captivating.
Here’s an example: “Miracles happen all the time,” says Ellie. “Like what?” asks Jack. “Benedict Cumberbatch becoming a sex symbol,” answers Ellie.
Director Danny Boyle (Oscar recipient, director, “Slumdog Millionaire,” 2009; director, “127 Hours,” 2010; “Millions,” 2004; “The Beach,” 2000; “A Life Less Ordinary,” 1997; “Trainspotting,” 1996) gets terrific performances from Patel (British TV’s “Eastenders,” 2007-2016), who evokes deer-in-headlights surprise and vulnerability; James (British TV’s “Downton Abbey,” 2012-2015), beguiling and steadfast; Kate McKinnon (Emmy, supporting actress, “Saturday Night Live,” 2017, 2016), as a music business executive in an Oscar supporting actress nominee-worthy performance; Meera Syal and Sanjeev Bhaskar, hilarious as Jack’s parents; Joel Fry, over-the-top great as Jack’s aide de camp, and pop singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran as himself, unassumingly delightful.
Boyle’s film themes are often about the miracle of luck, or the luck of miracles, on an individual. “Yesterday” continues his exploration.
Boyle, working with Director of Photography Christopher Ross (“Room,” 2015), Editor Jon Harris (Oscar nominee, editing, “127 Hours”) and Production Designer Patrick Rolfe (“127 Days”), creates a visually-stunning and graphically-rich world with psychedelic poster, cell-phone emojis and pop-culture influences.
Boyle’s knack for creating the mise-en-scène is much in evidence in “Yesterday” with wonderful and fascinating depictions of England, Moscow and Los Angeles. Boyle always puts his own spin on his surroundings and “Yesterday” is no exception.
And then there’s the treasure trove of Beatles’ songs, sung quite well by Patel in new arrangements and presented in situations that breathe new life into, and give new interpretations of, the lyrics. Composer Daniel Pemberton (“Steve Jobs,” 2015) successfully echoes The Beatles’ sound.
Along with 2019’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which was about Freddy Mercury and Queen and their lives, songs and impact, and “Rocketman,” which was about Elton John and his life, music and impact, “Yesterday,” though not about the lives of The Beatles (perhaps with one fictionalized exception), is certainly about the Lads from Liverpool songs and cultural impact.
As it’s stated in “Yesterday,” to “power-phrase”: “A world without The Beatles? Unimaginable.”
And, in the end, “Yesterday” gets to the heart of what songwriting, fame, true love and a life well-loved and well-lived is all about. “Yesterday” is not only fun, it may give you pause to reevaluate your life, goals and ambitions.
As Jack sings “Help!” as a desperate cry, we see the audience cheering, essentially being entertained by someone else’s pain. There’s a lesson in that.
Ultimately, “Yesterday” will put a smile on your face and a bounce in your step. See “Yesterday” today. Don’t wait until tomorrow. “Yesterday” never knows. And that’s OK, my friend.
“Yesterday” is the sleeper hit of Summer 2019. It’s a must-see for Beatles’ buffs and those who think Paul McCartney’s most famous band was Wings.
“Yesterday,” MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.) for suggestive content and language; Genre: Fantasy, Comedy, Musical; Run Time: 1 hr., 56 mins. Distributed by Universal Pictures.
Credit Readers Anonymous: The “Yesterday” soundtrack has 17 Beatles songs. Hamish Patel (Jack) sings and plays guitar and piano in the film.
Box Office, July 19-21: “The Lion King” roared to a record No. 1 opening, with $185 million, dethroning “Spider-Man: Far From Home” from its two-week perch at No. 1, dropping one place No. 2, $21 million, $319.6 million, three weeks.
“The Lion King” opening was the biggest-ever for July, surpassing the previous record of $169.1 million by “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2” (2011).
3. “Toy Story 4” dropped one place, $14.6 million, $375.5 million, five weeks. 4. “Crawl” dropped one place, $6 million, $23.8 million, two weeks. 5. “Yesterday” continued in place, $5.1 million, $57.5 million, four weeks. 6. “Stuber” dropped two places, $4 million, $16 million, two weeks. 7. “Aladdin” dropped one place, $3.8 million, $340 million, nine weeks. 8. “Annabelle Comes Home” dropped one place, $2.7 million, $66.5 million, four weeks. 9. “Midsommar” dropped one place, $1.5 million, $22.4 million, three weeks. 10. “The Secret Life Of Pets 2” dropped one place, $1.5 million, $151.5 million, seven weeks.
It was a weekend not only of the 50th anniversary of the first man on the moon, but the weekend when “Avengers: Endgame” replaced “Avatar” as the biggest-grossing film worldwide with a tally, and still counting, of $2.79 billion.
Unreel, July 26:
“Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood,” R: Quentin Tarantino directs an ensemble cast, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Dakota Fanning, Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Luke Perry, Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen, Rumer Willis, Zoe Bell, Lena Dunham, Brenda Vaccaro and Maya Hawke in the Comedy Drama. A television actor and his stunt double seek fame and fortune in 1969 during the last days of the movie studio system in Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes