Movie Review - Yesterday (2019)
Written by Richard Curtis (Love Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral), this film imagines a world where nobody knows who The Beatles are. For some Millennials or maybe most, that's probably already the case. Except, in this film, a person couldn't even learn who they are on the Internet. Through magic or weird science-fiction, The Beatles never formed as a music group and never released any of their songs. Nobody knows who they are, except for one man.
Curtis' script is an interesting premise, but, besides the joke of nobody knowing who The Beatles are, nothing else substantial is done with this idea. At first, it seems like he might do something substantial with the premise, but, ultimately it gets dropped. Curtis instead focuses on a rather lame and rather retrograde, love story.
While that avenue would have been a good one to examine, this film abandons it. Because of which, it posits that the music of The Beatles is great and would rise to the top no matter what. The film could have pivoted and been about the guilt of Jack's plagiarism and his questioning of his own talent or abilities as a songwriter. The film does pivot to that guilt and questioning somewhat, but that pivot was never strong enough that I felt any real stakes. It was never such that I felt Jack was threatened in any significant way.
The reason it's lame is because the film doesn't devote enough time to Jack and Ellie. In fact, Ellie practically disappears for the majority of the second act. The film doesn't care about her until near the end when all of a sudden we're supposed to care. That care for her feels thrust upon us and not a natural outgrowth of the characters or story.
This film also ends with an implication or rather a statement that's problematic for two reasons. The first reason is that the statement isn't supported by any facts in the film. The second reason is because it disregards all other contributions to music that aren't either a Classical composer from hundreds of years ago or simply anyone else who isn't white.
Boyle's direction is good as always with camera moves and editing that keep this film's energy up and the audience engaged. Sadly, it simply has nothing substantial to say. Themes about fame and fortune versus honesty and integrity are easy takeaways, but it's not anchored strongly enough to make this anything more than a summer trifle. Yet, it is reasonably funny and Himesh Patel is charming and talented.
Rated PG-13 for suggestive content and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 56 mins.