Films Reviews

Edinburgh International Film Festival: Yesterday

What would happen if The Beatles never existed?

What would happen if The Beatles never existed? That isn’t exactly what this film, sets out to discover. There are not many consequences for the lack of Beatlemania in Danny Boyle’s (Trainspotting, Sunshine) latest film as the trailers would suggest. It plays as more of a background to another one of writer Richard Curtis’ (Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral) heart-warming romantic comedies. However, it is not quite up to the standards of both involved; at best it is still the feel-good-ness you’d expect and accomplishes most things that it sets out to do.

Himesh Patel plays Jack Malik, a wannabe singer/songwriter who is down in the dumps and about to give up. But after being hit by a bus, he seems to fall into some kind of alternate timeline in which The Beatles never existed. This means he can convince his best friend, and secret crush (Lily James), and the rest of the world that overnight he became the biggest and best songwriter on the planet. Starting off with some of the good, Lily James and Himesh Patel really gel well together as the two romantic leads. They have a fun chemistry that feels brilliant to watch play out on screen. James especially brings her smile and energy that she puts into all her lighter roles.

The use of the songs varied from just fine to good depending on the Beatles tune being used. Not being much of a Beatles fan put a damper on it but this was kind of expected. The singing is serviceable too and I’d imagine the soundtrack will make them an extra bit of bank on top of the actual box office takeaway. The only glaring omission is the lack of Lily James singing in the film, we know she is great, and it is a travesty they didn’t include her for any of the songs.

On a funnier note, the film raises more questions than it actually answers, and I managed to bog myself down in the technicalities of the (what seems like) dimension jumping. And it’s not just the work of The Beatles that don’t exist in this timeline, other things are also absent from history. One of these is much more important than the other as in key flashback scenes Jack sings at a school talent show and impresses Lily James with a certain song that should no longer exist. Does this event still take place? Would there be a replacement song? Would there be any real replacements for the things that are missing in the new timeline? This is all I could think about for much of the bus journey home and it really ruined my ability to get work done.

Anyway, that is kind of beside the point. Yesterday is a pretty good film for what it is. Despite not being the best work of two British filmmaking Legends it lacks the energy and inventiveness of Danny Boyle’s usual directing style. Not only that but, it feels like super low production value it is an enjoyable ride of a film with a great soundtrack and some great chemistry between the leads. I had a fun time watching it but at the end of the day, it is nothing too special and IT DOESN’T EXPLAIN THE DIMENSIONS, TIMELINE OR ANY DEEPER STUFF ENOUGH.

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