Movie ReviewsYesterday – An Overambitious Musical Dramedy

Keith NoakesJune 28, 201965/100
Himesh Patel, Lily James, Kate McKinnon
Richard Curtis
Danny Boyle
PG (Canada), PG-13 (United States)
Running Time
116 minutes
Release Date
June 28th, 2019
Overall Score
Rating Summary
Yesterday was a fun musical dramedy that couldn't quite sustain its ambitious premise with a convoluted story full of underwritten characters but is ultimately saved by its soundtrack and a great lead performance from Himesh Patel.

Who doesn’t love The Beatles? Their impact could not be overstated so suffice it to say that they will obviously be a big draw for Yesterday. It doesn’t seem right to say this but The Beatles can only take it so far. The film’s premise has been featured prominently across the film’s promotion, however, it wouldn’t be quite enough to sustain a film that would be something much more (while also less) than its arguably nonsensical premise. Now those looking for any type of explanation will need to look elsewhere as the film ultimately lives or dies based on the audience’s connection to The Beatles.

For those who don’t know anything about the film, Yesterday was about a struggling musician named Jack Malik (Patel) who after a freak accident (in which the film never explained since what would be the point of that?), wakes up in an alternate timeline where The Beatles, and some other noteworthy things, never existed. The novelty of watching characters not knowing anything about The Beatles unsurprisingly brought on some funny moments initially before the cluelessness got old fast. The same would be the case for the other aforementioned things that no longer existed. Unfortunately, this humor would more often distract from the plot as a whole.

The ambition was definitely there, however, the film as a whole was a narrative mess. Where the film did succeed, however, was with Malik himself. The characters for the most part were underwritten and lacked character development but he was still very compelling to watch, surviving on his relatability. Despite the fact that the film for whatever reason decided to throw a series of curveballs his way, he would somehow still persevere though arguably without going nearly deep enough on an emotional level. In the end, Yesterday would get too caught up in its own ambition.

Malik’s rise was fun to watch though would be weighed down by too many subplots. From his humble beginnings as a struggling musician, Malik had his close friend and manager named Ellie Appleton (James) by his side, however, the two saw their relationship differently. His own music wasn’t quite cutting it so he decided that he would take advantage of The Beatles massive catalog of hit songs and pass them off as his own. This decision would of course lead to his big break and the kind of career that he had always dreamed of and being lauded as the greatest song writer of all time. Nevertheless, Malik couldn’t help but feel uneasy, knowing the truth behind who really wrote all of his songs.

Malik’s uneasiness would only get worse the more famous he got, however, his growing fame would always seem to prevail. Despite this, the truth about his songs would still loom large and it was interesting, albeit not surprising, to see which would eventually prevail in the end. Also while Malik got increasingly famous, he and Appleton grew further apart. Their relationship was probably the weakest part of the film. Without character development, it came off as forced and was hard to care about as it seemed like an afterthought compared to everything else. Another weak aspect of Yesterday was its over-the-top depiction of the music industry. Other than a wisecracking manager named Debra Hammer (McKinnon), this subplot went nowhere.

Yesterday may feature plenty of style and the many musical performances were well shot but nothing really stood out. The performances were the best part of the film and they began and ended with Patel as Malik. He was great here, bringing plenty of charisma and screen presence to the role. While he may have stumbled in the few emotional moments, he was still compelling to watch and he can definitely sing and play instruments. Though James’ Appleton was poorly written, she still somewhat made an impact in her limited screen time and had great chemistry with Patel. McKinnon’s Hammer was an unnecessary character to the plot, however, it gave her the opportunity to Kate McKinnon which at the end of the day isn’t such a bad thing as she was a scene-stealer. As a side note, it was nice to see Ed Sheeran, in a small role, kind of make fun of himself.

At the end of the day, fans of The Beatles will surely have a fun time with Yesterday but others will be left wanting more.

*still courtesy of Universal Pictures*

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