The life of any songwriter not armed with synths and pro-tools is daunting. Prospects of stardom and recognition diminishes when said songwriter isn’t supported by a team of professionally trained composers and **gasps** plays guitar. Consequently, Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) can’t strum a break.
But if Jack were supplied with the right songs, quite possibly the best songs, maybe Beatles songs? “Coincidentally,” Yesterday creates such a world, a world where the Beatles don’t exist, technically. Director Danny Boyle‘s newest film quickly spins the wheels of its intriguing premise in the mud, relying on a saccharine love story less believable than any 60’s bubblegum pop song.
Malik, who’s been working on a music career since he first played Wonderwall at his school talent show, drudges from near empty gig to near empty gig. At that talent show, he impressed his future manager Ellie (Lily James) who’s now the only person who believes in his songs (even the flaccidly named ‘Summer Song’). Ellie, for a time, occupies the role of pinning hopeful girlfriend.
But everything changes on one stormy night, where Malik crashes his bike into a bus. When he awakens, he’s missing two teeth (some extremely cheap humor on the part of Boyle and screenwriters Jack Barth and Richard Curtis) and the Beatles don’t exist. Not only do the Beatles not exist, Malik is the only person who remembers their songs (barely).
The next hour and a half finds Malik rising to superstardom, and gaining a new manager in the brutally honest and hilarious Mandi (Kate McKinnon). Ed Sheeran also appears in a surprisingly endearing role as himself, but Yesterday falls apart while sharply shifting from a commentary on the music industry to a forced love story. While the film features some incredibly funny bits, and the music of the Beatles still feels timeless, the time spent on this gamey concept is truly ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ (had to get that in there).
A selection of the Chicago Critics Film Festival