To put it simply, Yesterday is a Beatles movie. Yet, in an age of pop icons being immortalized on the big screen – Bohemian Rhapsody, and Rocketman for example – it deserves more than that, for it takes more than one original twist on the typical conventions of the genre.
First and foremost, Yesterday unlike its previously mentioned comparables, is not a movie about The Beatles. It has its own story and plot, simply featuring The Beatles’ greatest hits.
Yesterday is about failing singer songwriter Jack Malik who, after a 12 second worldwide power outage, is the only person left who remembers The Beatles and their legendary repertoire. He uses this gift to his advantage, passing the songs off has his own and subsequently rising to a higher level of fame than ever imaginable. Yet, tormented by the guilt of ‘plagiarizing’ the masterpieces, Jack struggles with an intense internal conflict threatening both his sanity and his personal relationships.
The film is at its heart, a romantic comedy, and a good one at that. It’s cute, quirky, and wildly silly in all the right places. Yet, while it works in terms of that specific genre, those same factors that make it loveable also fall flat when you remember that this is in fact a tribute to perhaps the most influential musical group to ever exist.
The silliness of the picture at times comes across as cheap, an insult to some amazing musical masterpieces. For example, towards the beginning of the film Jack attempts to show his parents one of the bands most famous numbers “Let It Be”. Yet, at the frustration of both Jack and the audience, his parents cannot keep quiet long enough to actually hear the song be played, resulting in a frustrating repetition of the first verse. While Jack mimics our frustration, this trick feels like a misuse of great song for a quick laugh.
The antics continue when pop icon Ed Sheeran – who discovers Mr. Malik’s musical talent – changes the title of “Hey Jude” to ‘Hey Dude’. Again, while this notion is recognized by Jack as absurd, even the mention of such a thing hurts in a deep way to any true Beatles fan.
However, despite the dare I say sacrilegious comedy made out of music that many people take very, very seriously, the film has more than a few charming moments made possible mostly by a fantastic cast.
Himesh Patel (Jack Malik) delivers stellar performance after stellar performance, and while he’s no John Lennon or Paul McCartney, he does the music justice, a recognizably hard feat. The comedy is also uplifted by a hilarious Kate McKinnon who embodies a wealth obsessed manager that is everything wrong the industry today, the kind of character you love to hate. The sweetness of the whole thing is maintained by both Ed Sheeran and Lily James, bringing both modesty and unbridled optimism respectively.
Overall while I may be ticked off by the cheap shot at “Let It Be” or the failure to include hits like “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”, Yesterday was a sweet movie, and it’ll leave you feeling good. Watch with a critical eye, and the whole thing begins to fall apart, but if you watch simply to enjoy, then enjoy you will.
Just don’t expect it to do the Beatles justice, as if anything truly could.