Imagine if you woke up tomorrow and the world had forgotten The Beatles. If you were an aspiring musician at the end of their tether you couldn’t wish for a better gift. This is the genius concept of Yesterday, developed by Jack Barth, and written by Richard Curtis with his usual sense of romanticism.
It’s a tremendous idea, and Curtis milks it for all it’s worth with some great fish-out-of-water comedy and a slew of gags about other everyday items absent from this parallel world. The concept’s biggest problem is in expecting us to accept Jack (Himesh Patel), a distinctly average singer, as some great unrecognised talent. Thankfully Patel is a much better actor, bringing sincerity, honesty and an endearing energy to the role.
He has good chemistry with his co-star and love interest Lily James, though she is often underused, left to mope around in the background while Jack lives out his popstar dreams. Spoiling as little as possible, it’s safe to say that Curtis’s warped sense of romantic morality remains intact. Yesterday’s conclusion is a disappointment all round and a disservice to the characters we’ve seen grow realistically alongside each other all film long.
Yesterday is at its best when it’s harnessing the endless brilliance of the Beatles’ music, and capturing the electric thrill it must have been to record it. Director Danny Boyle sacrifices some of his identity for this mainstream material, but still delivers a few pumped-up montages that drive the action along.
Curtis’ script is warm and fun, spiced up by a great scene-stealing performance from Kate McKinnon, but it often feels like a first draft. Boyle brings all the edge he can, but it’s not enough to sharpen this broad romcom that wastes the “what if?” potential of its concept.
CAST: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Kate McKinnon, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Meera Syal, Joel Fry, Ed Sheeran
DIRECTOR: Danny Boyle
WRITERS: Richard Curtis (screenplay), Jack Barth (story)
SYNOPSIS: A struggling musician realizes he’s the only person on Earth who can remember The Beatles after waking up in an alternate timeline where they never existed.