Cinematic Releases: Altered Musical History: Yesterday (2019) - Reviewed

What would you do if you discovered that The Beatles were erased from history? This very situation is the premise of Danny Boyle's new film, Yesterday.  Jack Malik, played by Himesh Patel, is a struggling musician who's just about given up on his dream of becoming a rock star, when in the aftermath of a global power outage, he realizes that he might be the only person in the world who remembers The Beatles.  This discovery leads him to the idea of passing off their now unknown songs as his own, as a ploy to finally achieve the success he's always dreamt of.  

I remember first seeing the trailer for Yesterday months ago, and instantly being captivated by the idea it was presenting.  I'm a huge fan of Danny Boyle, and I was curious to see what his next film would be since he dropped out of directing the next Bond film.  I love The Beatles as well of course, and I felt like this was a great way of paying homage to one of the all-time great bands rather than making another standard musical biopic.  Unfortunately, Yesterday doesn't quite give us the love letter to The Beatles we were hoping for, choosing instead to use their music as a plot device to help set up a love story.  Don't get wrong, I still had fun with this film; I was just a tad disappointed that it didn't quite end focusing on what I had hoped for.  

The greatest strength of this film has to be the cast that Danny Boyle assembled.  Yesterday was my introduction to Himesh Patel, whose previous work mainly consists of British television.  He's a delightful and charming lead who I hope to see more of in the future.  Playing opposite Patel is Lily James, who is adorable as always; although I did find it a bit hard to believe that she had spent half her life pining for his character.  The scene-stealer of this film though is none other than Kate McKinnon, who provides the biggest laughs of the film as Jack's new manager.  There are few people in film and television who make me laugh harder than Kate McKinnon.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Yesterday, aside from what I said earlier about it focusing more on the love story than the music was the multitude of ideas it presented without giving them any real depth.  In this new world where The Beatles no longer exist, there are a few other bands, products, etc that have ceased to exist as well, and yet the film doesn't really take any time to explore what the world is truly like without these things.  It feels like such a missed opportunity.  In fact, the film even went so far as to erase a band that brought the two main characters together in the first place, yet failed to address what had happened instead.  It comes off as lazy writing, and I can't help but wonder how much more fulfilling Yesterday could have been if it had addressed some of these concepts.  Ultimately, I did have a fun time with this film.  It was a sweet, fun experience.  Sadly, I just don't have a huge desire to ever watch it again.

- Derek Miranda