- Colin Fraser
THREE STARS Yesterday, Jack was a struggling busker. Then he was hit by a bus. Today, he's the sixth Beatle.
Himesh Patel, Lily James
COMEDY ROMANCE #YESTERDAY
This agreeably silly romcom from Richard Curtis (LOVE ACTUALLY) and Danny Boyle (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE) is funny, entertaining and frustrating in equal parts. Get over the ridiculous premise (busker jumps timelines into a world where The Beatles never existed) as well as the disappointment that Boyle is - ahem - off the boil, you’ll find there’s quite a lot of fun to be had here, notably from the endearing Himesh Patel in the lead as singer-songwriter Jack Malik.
Despite showing great promise in high school, Jack’s musical career has never taken off and on a dark and stormy night, he calls it quits. Fortunately, kind of, he is hit by a bus just as the entire planet suffers an electrical black out and Jack along with it. When he wakes up, a few things have gone missing such as Jack’s front teeth, Coca Cola and the entire output of The Beatles. No one except him remembers their songs. What to do? Claim them for himself and ride the inevitable wave of fame and fortune that follows.
Albeit a one-joke concept, YESTERDAY is, in Patel’s hands, an easy watch that is agreeably repetitive without becoming tiresome. He finds a nice rhythm in the deceit as he turns from Nowhere Man into International Pop Sensation while hanging on to the anxiety of his (arguably) victimless criminality. Really, how can you steal from people who don’t exist? Couple that with scenes in which he tries to remember The Beatles’ half-forgotten lyrics and the film starts to sing.
Support from love interest Lily James is less than stellar - she simply looks uncomfortable much of the time - while a turn from a self-deprecating Ed Sheeran as Ed Sheeran is funny as he tortures himself with the realisation he’s no longer The World’s Best Songwriter (although his minimal acting chops pulls at the joke he’s telling). Kate McKinnon as the deadpan-nasty LA Agent From Hell is a delight while Danny Boyle, once the poster boy for gritty commercial filmmaking, phones this in with perfectly adequate yet totally under-inspired direction. Perhaps he should have known better after the hard day’s night of Bond 25.
All in all, there’s a lot to like if you do a quick pirouette across the surface of this Curtis-Boyle creation. Don’t stop to look at the cracks or you’ll fall into this hot chocolate of a movie: while there’s no nutritional value it still leaves you feeling warm inside. So cosy up to the rom-com whimsy and toe-tap along with some of the best pop songs ever written. You could do a lot worse this winter.