Tuesday Review – Yesterday (2019)

films, reviews



I’d better get this out of the way at the start of this review: I’m not really a fan of The Beatles. I should clarify that point. I do think they have pretty decent music for the time. However, I reject the idea that The Beatles are the greatest band of all time. Did they influence music? Yes. But were they really pushing the boundaries of music? Not on your nelly. Even in the 60s, they weren’t the most interesting and exciting band around. I mean you’re looking at the same decades that saw the birth of The Kinks, The Who, and The Rolling Stones. Just because The Beatles sold millions doesn’t mean they are any good. Look at Ed fucking Sheeran. Popularity is no indication of how “good” a band is. The Beatles were safe and wrote very lovely songs about falling in love. Of course, girls were going to eat it up. So, straight off the bat, Richard Curtis’ film didn’t sit well with me. The Beatles didn’t change the face of popular music as much as people will tell you. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Admittedly, we’re a select group of people but that doesn’t mean we’re wrong. Again, the number of fans isn’t the same as the amount of talent. Look at Taylor Swift. If anyone can offer me an argument for why the Beatles are the greatest band ever without mentioning the number of fans or record sales then I’m all ears. Until then, I know who’s right. And it’s not Richard Curtis. It’s never Richard Curtis.

I definitely outgrew Richard Curtis films in my teens. I used to lap up his saccharine and obvious romantic-comedies when I was younger. Then I realised, it’s all the same stupid story. I admit, I enjoyed About Time but that was more to do with the fact that I thought I’d hate it. That and Domhnall Gleeson’s face. I’d enjoy anything if I could look at his face. But, just like Baz Luhrmann, I’m bored of Curtis’ obsession with love. So, I guess that was why I was intrigued about his latest film. The concept seemed very un-Curtis like and was interesting. But, considering my apathy towards both the writer and the band at the heart of the film, I still wasn’t convinced that this film would be for me. Especially knowing that Ed Sheeran was making a cameo as himself.

We all like to think that everything happens for a reason but, let’s be honest, there is no great plan. There’s no such thing as fate. What if you woke up one day and life was suddenly completely different? How would you cope? That’s the issue that faces Jack (Himesh Patel) in Yesterday. Jack is a gigging musician who is nowhere near being discovered. His number one fan, best friend, and manager, Ellie (Lily James), is one of the few people still encouraging him to keep going. Jack is knocked unconscious during a global blackout and, when he wakes up, he discovers the rest of the world have no idea who The Beatles are. Seeing an unmissable opportunity, Jack starts to pass off their greatest hits as his own. But, when he is suddenly thrust into stardom, is Jack ready to leave his old life behind? And can he come to terms with stealing the work of someone else?

I’ll admit, even for a non-Beatles fan like me, the premise of this film is an interesting one. What would you do if you were the only one who remembered something? Especially something that had the potential to give you everything you’d ever wanted. It’s quite a question. A question that Curtis explores for a few minutes before placing the film back in romantic-comedy territory. Because, whilst he is becoming a household name, Jack discovers that Ellie has been in love with him for years. Yeah, the pair both have pretty good chemistry but this love affair is so flimsy. It distracts from the main premise and turns this into yet another Richard Curtis film about an awkward man realising he’s losing a girl who is way too good for him.

Yesterday feels like a Richard Curtis film. Do you know what it doesn’t feel like? A Danny Boyle film. It’s not that his direction is bad but Curtis’ story doesn’t really give him much room to do great things. Yes, this is an elevated Richard Cutis romantic-comedy but a Richard Curtis rom-com is remains. Imagine what the director could have done with this premise without Curtis on board. I would have loved a film that pushed the premise instead of turning it into a Beatles greatest hits parade. The story is so inconsequential that you wonder why it’s there at all. Curtis should just have doe what he wanted to do and released a Beatles cover album instead.

This film does so little with so much. It wastes an interesting idea and it wastes its cast with underdeveloped characters. Lily James and Kate McKinnon are given nothing to work with and try their best. Even Jack isn’t exactly a fully-fledged character. Perhaps if the amount of Beatles songs that played out on screen had reduced it would have left more time to consider the people on screen? Also, the whole plot of this film hinges on the fact that The Beatles’ back catalogue would have the same impact today as it did then. The who science of the film is iffy in terms of who survives and who doesn’t but, as Ed Sheeran still exists, we can safely assume that contemporary pop os much the same as in the real world. So, would such simple and unimaginative songs really make such an impact in 2019? Beatles fan would tell us yes but I question this.

Yesterday, when it comes down to it, is less a film than it is Richard Curtis’ fawning love letter to a band that isn’t as good as we’re meant to believe. It’s not the worst thing you’ll ever see but it’s pretty boring and self-indulgent. Yes, there are some fun and sweet moments. But this, like Bohemian Rhapsody, is a soundtrack and not a story. And the use of such familiar songs will fool people into thinking it’s good. It’s really annoying.

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