Director Danny Boyle takes a long and winding road to get to the point in “Yesterday,” a somewhat charming romance about a singer who awakens to a world where the Beatles don’t exist.
Their songs do, largely because Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) remembers them and manages to pass them off as his own.
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In no time, he’s being courted by managers, record companies and other artists (chief among them: Ed Sheeran, who believes “Hey Jude” should be “Hey Dude).
What he loses in the process is relationships with those who’ve supported him for years – including Ellie (Lily James), the “manager” who drives him even in the worst times.
Boyle creates an interesting world that also eliminates Coca-Cola, among other things, but doesn’t have as many quirks as maybe it needs.
There’s also a disconnect with today’s music world. Managers keep pushing Jack for more songs so they can launch a killer first album. Considering most acts release singles before there’s any thought of an album, that seems excessive. Even worse? Jack’s catalog only includes the hits, not some of the “B” side songs. (Wouldn’t his career be done after just a couple of albums?)
An aggressive agent (nicely underplayed by Kate McKinnon) moves in and changes up everything that makes Jack Jack. She pulls him as far away from his British home and treats him worse than a boy band manager.
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Meanwhile, Ellie continues to support the man, even though he doesn’t return the favor. He’s so caught up trying to remember Beatles lyrics and chords he starts to drive himself crazy.
Is it a dream?
Or could this kind of scenario actually take place?
Boyle takes too much time revealing his hand but he does let Patel sing a lot of great Beatles songs. Because everything had to be approved, it’s about the closest we’re going to get to a Beatles musical without an out-and-out biopic.
"Yesterday" isn’t the great Beatles film you’ve been waiting to see. But it’s a charming fantasy that lets us hear those great songs in a whol…
Patel plays everything well – the aggravation, the adulation, the anxiety. While James emerges a little too one-note, she’s not around enough to consider her sense of loss.
Boyle tosses a lot of tricks at the story and has one surprise that’s interesting but grasping.
“Yesterday” pops to life largely when it’s focused on the music. What you discover is how specific the songs were to John, Paul, George and Ringo. They didn’t just capture a feeling, they pulled you into their lives. Abbey Road became familiar because they made it important.
For Jack, they lack context.
“Yesterday” is like that, too. It needs a greater sense of purpose and a reason for something like this to happen. Love, it seems, isn’t all you need.