After an accident, a struggling musician awakes to find that the world has forgotten The Beatles. When he begins to find fame after passing their music off as his own, he will realize that celebrity means giving up what he wants most. Directed by Danny Boyle, Yesterday is a charming film for its music and humor, but the script plays out predictably and leaves you feeling lukewarm by the end.
A successful musical career seems like a faraway dream for Jack (Himesh Patel). After quitting his job as a school teacher, he performs small gigs around town with the help of his manager and best friend Ellie (Lily James). She continues to inspire him to push in his career, but he’s come to a breaking point and ready to quit. While riding his bike home one evening, a blackout sweeps the entire globe and in that moment, Jack is hit by a bus.
He wakes up in the hospital with dear Ellie by his side. After he recovers, his friends surprise him with a new guitar and they beg him to sing. He performs “Yesterday” and mesmerizes them all. They are shocked by his ability to write such a magical song, and when he confusingly explains it’s by “The Beatles”, his friends haven’t heard of such a band. Jack is unimpressed by this joke, but after searching the internet, he finds that “The Beatles” never existed; among some other pop culture items.
He begins performing the bands music regardless, acting as though he’s written these iconic songs. He catches the ear of his town, and then famous musician Ed Sheeran. After getting a record deal, a fancy LA agent (Kate McKinnon), and unimaginable fame, Jack begins to wonder if he’s traded what he truly loves for something he thought he would.
On the surface, this film is a cute escape. The musical numbers are fun and Patel does a great job performing the classic Beatles tunes. I think fans and non-fans can both enjoy the vibrant retelling of these songs. For me, as a non-fan (I know, I know), it gave me a certain new appreciation for the music. There are some great comedic moments sprinkled in that’ll have you cracking a smile. Even Ed Sheeran does a pretty good job or playing a caricature of himself. I’d say the first two-thirds of the film are pretty stellar, but then it takes a turn I wasn’t much of a fan of.
When we get to the third act, the film takes on a stronger message and becomes a little too cheesy. As Jack begins to realize that being a famous musician means sacrificing something—and someone—important, it felt forced. As though this life-lesson was only there to serve as a resolution and to tie up the story, because truthfully, it doesn’t hold that much weight. It felt that time wasn’t spent really honing the development of the narrative for those final moments, which delivers a few cringe-inducing scenes. There’s nothing so obvious to the story that proves he couldn’t have both, or that he couldn’t dial back one component to have it all. It seems only there to preach to the audience.
Yesterday is mild and sweet. It’s honestly not something I find rewatchable, but it is an adorable little movie with an interesting premise and some great humor. It really benefits from two great leads with Patel and James, and a wonderful supporting cast. Especially during current times, I think a happy film like this, while not groundbreaking, can be a little emotional medicine.