- James Mottram
- 24 June 2019
Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis join forces for a likeable enough, Beatles-themed musical drama
Yesterday represents a long-overdue fusion of creative minds: Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis. The once-edgy Trainspotting director meets the cosy screenwriter behind Notting Hill for a story about the Beatles (or the absence of them); it feels like a match made in British film industry heaven.
Like Curtis's last outing as writer-director, About Time, Yesterday spins on a sci-fi conceit, as the world suffers from a brief electrical outage. In those few seconds, aspiring singer-songwriter Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) just so happens to be knocked unconscious after his bike is hit by a bus. When he wakes up, minus his front teeth, he casually discovers that nobody has any idea who the Beatles are (confirmed by a swift Google, which just brings up a picture of some beetles).
Realising this gift-horse, Jack swiftly writes down all the Fab Four lyrics he can remember – though, amusingly, he has trouble with 'Eleanor Rigby'. Also funny is the scene where he tries to play 'Let It Be' to his parents. But with a little help from his friends – well, the lovely Ellie (Lily James) – Jack manages to get some tracks down, which soon fall into the hands of Ed Sheeran (playing himself, to good comic effect).
Yet, when Jack heads to LA to hook up with Kate McKinnon's merciless agent, the film feels less surefooted, as Jack's feelings for Ellie and guilt over his musical theft leave him torn. Former EastEnders star Patel sings well, but can't stop Jack from being a rather morose lead, as has been the actor's shtick in both the aforementioned soap and Channel 4 sitcom Damned. Joel Fry adds some pep as Jack's roadie Rocky, and it's hard not to warm to a film filled with so many Beatles tracks. But Yesterday never quite convinces as a classic Curtis rom-com, while it lacks the infectious euphoria of Boyle's best work.
General release from Fri 28 Jun.