Guest critic Pete Herr from The Geeekiverese has his review of the new Beatles-themed comedy “Yesterday.”
Imagine a world without The Beatles. That’s what the new comedy “Yesterday” does, and with a few surprises and unexpected twists, it becomes a feel-good love story that is certainly worth a visit to the theater, whether you are a fan of the Fab Four or not.
Hey listen, when it comes to the Geekiverse, I am the penultimate Beatles fan. You’re reading an article by one of the four airband champions from Clarence High School in 1982. I was George Harrison in an EPIC rendition of a handmade Beatles medley. True story. So, when I heard about this film I was downright giddy.
“Yesterday” is a fun little love story that imagines a world without The Beatles. In a very stereotypical beginning, struggling musician, Jack Malik, played by Himesh Patel, is involved in an accident and when he recovers, no one has ever heard of the lads from Liverpool. And yet, Jack, remembers them and many of their songs. His struggle to actually remember they full songs is really quite amusing. Even armed with a few of The Beatles best, Jack isn’t immediately heralded as the world’s best singer/songwriter and those challenges add to the comedy in this film. The premise is fun, even while the head injury storyline is nothing new. I did kind of roll my eyes as the set up happened. Luckily, the creative team, including writers Jack Barth and Richard Curtis and director Danny Boyle, did a nice job of finding unique twists that made the film all the more enjoyable. I particularly liked that the film didn’t prescribe to one of the endings that these films typically use. Because it played with The Beatles, the stakes were higher and the ending was, as a filmmaker friend (I wish I remember which one) once explained to me “unexpected and inevitable”.
The film takes place, mostly in a small town in England, and the majority of the actors are British. While I wouldn’t change any of that, there were times where the English accents were hard to understand. The entire film had a bit of an “indie film” vibe to it, from the camera filters used in filming to the location choices, it had a certain less than blockbuster charm about it.
As the movie develops, it turns out that Jack isn’t the only one who remembers The Beatles, and there are a couple of really nice moments, including a little unexpected climax to that tiny storyline that actually made me clap once during the film. I don’t clap in movie theaters.
The film runs just about two hours and the middle third slows to a crawl for a bit. There probably could have been a few minutes cut that would have actually helped the pacing.
Patel did a really nice job as Jack, who, over the course of the film, is transformed from struggling musician to superstar, and the struggles and guilt throughout as he knows that he has achieved his fame through a steaming pile of dishonesty. Is it dishonesty though, if The Beatles never actually existed? Jack has to come to grips with that.
The film also stars Ed Sheeran, who it turns out isn’t a bad actor, despite the fact that he is only playing himself. There are a few really fun scenes between the actual superstar and the up and comer, as they become great friends over the course of the film. Sheeran doesn’t just have a pop in, pop out cameo, but rather a consequential role in the film, and he delivers quite nicely.
The real hero of this film is Lily James, who plays Ellie Appleton, Jack’s long-time friend, manager and love interest in the story. She delivers the most adorably awkward character I have seen in years. A school teacher, who acts as Jack’s manager, booking him in tents and empty rooms throughout the early parts of the film, she continues to push him, even when he is trying to give up, and her obvious love for him, even as he outgrows the little town they have grown up in, is a delight to watch. I immediately went home and looked up her other works, to see if there was anything I else I might be able to enjoy her in. I hope this film turns into a pile of others for her.
The biggest disappoint in this film was Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon, who sadly delivered a cartoon character of a real music manager. There were times that she slipped into a character that was almost indistinguishable from the role she played in Ghostbusters. It is a sketch comedy character, not a full movie character, and I hope this isn’t what her career grows into. She’s so talented and this was just a Kate McKinnon stock character. Don’t get caught in that mold, Kate.
It’s not a blockbuster, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a heartwarming and fun two hours in the theater. If you love The Beatles, and some fun comedy, along with a cute love story, this is a good film for you. It’s the perfect date night film.
+ The Beatles, duh
+ Fun, heartwarming romantic comedy with some nice unexpected moments
+ Lily James, Lily James, Lily James
– The accents were sometimes hard to understand
– Kate McKinnon’s character was…well…Kate McKinnon
– Pacing was slow at times
The Grumpy Geek, Pete Herr is the author of “10 Things We Should Teach You In High School and Usually Don’t”. He is the oldest geek in the Geekiverse by a factor of two. Follow Pete Herr on Facebook, Twitter,and Insta
COO, It’s A Thing Media