Yesterday - Review
Danny Boyle has made some wonderfully entertaining films. 28 Days Later is one of the greatest zombie movies ever made. Slumdog Millionaire is still poignant a decade later. His latest venture Yesterday was worth paying attention to due to the very interesting premise. What if one struggling musician was the only person on Earth to remember the Beatles?
There is a very strong story to be told with that premise alone. It would be a mix of Groundhog Day and Back To The Future II. Unfortunately, Yesterday doesn't execute its intriguing premise to its full potential.
The best part of the movie is actually the love story between Jack Malick (Himesh Patel, of EastEnders fame) and Ellie Appleton played by the always charming Lily James (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society). The first act balanced both things well, but eventually the love story took over and the film actually improved from it.
Yesterday would have been better with the removal of one or the other. Make it about a struggling musician who hits it big and leaves his true love behind and the ramifications of that, and you have a great film. Or make it truly about a man dealing with the burden of being the only one to remember the Beatles in an elseworld dystopia type film. You would have something great there. Doing both, leaves Yesterday being a whimsical, charming, and sweet mess of a film with an identity crisis.
The message is a good one, and comes through loud and clear. Yesterday preaches that what you have might truly be the dream, and what you're chasing is just a distraction. (Or, to keep with The Beatles theme....All You Need Is Love).
The film introduces some intriguing ideas, but never resolves them. Usually a movie will tell people what it wants to be. In this case, it desperately wanted to be a love story between two childhood friends. But it was forced to try to be something else at the same time, and the film suffered for it.
The music in is of top notch of course, and will be a treat for Beatles fans. But the movie tries to rest a ton of its laurels on just the music alone, and its not quite enough to support it fully.
Kate McKinnon churns out a wonderful performance as an agent who is trying to help Jack be famous. She expertly portrays everything wrong with fame and how greed can corrupt. She is the yin to James' yang. Boyle does a good job putting that contrast on screen.
In fact, Boyle does a good job trying to corral this film into something tangible. The problem lies in the unique and interesting premise that brought people to the theater. There is no satisfactory resolution. The story you didn't know you wanted gets a wonderful resolution. But you will walk out with something left to be desired.
Watching Yesterday reminded me of Alien: Covenant in that it is confused. Alien: Covenant tried hard to be both a Prometheus sequel and an Alien prequel. If it chose just one, it would have been a stronger film. But it tried to do both, and the result was a lackluster product with a few memorable moments that showed what potential it had before it was squandered.
There is a wonderful moment in the film that will elicit gasps and cheers. It feels like that was the anchor in which the entire movie was written around. Almost like writers Jack Barth and Richard Curtis had that one idea, and pitched it off of that alone, and then had to figure the rest out to try and be a movie.
There is a lot to love in Yesterday. Even Ed Sheeran turns in a solid performance in a substantial supporting role. That is why the squandered potential is frustrating. It is almost like if you went to a eat a meal from a classically trained 5 star chef, and he served you a turkey sandwich. The sandwich would probably taste very good, but you can't help but think in the back of your head that there was potential for a better meal. You saw hints of it. The chef teased you with it, but at the end of the day, didn't deliver.
In the grand scheme of things, Yesterday is merely "fine". It will please the people who just want to hear Beatles music, to do decent enough at the box office. But it tows a line that doesn't need to be towed. Yesterday tries to play it safe, and should have doubled down on a single premise instead. Still, you will walk out appreciating the Beatles, and appreciating all the little things you take for granted. It certainly isn't the worst movie out this year, but instead of subverting expectations in a good way, it lets you down just a little bit.
Yesterday is now playing in theaters everywhere.