In director Danny Boyle’s latest film, Yesterday, a world-wide blackout occurs and causes everyone in the world except for one man to forget The Beatles ever existed. After the film was finished, I wish a rolling blackout occurred so I could forget this entire movie existed. Though the film has an original and unique idea, screenwriter Richard Curtis and Boyle have no idea what to do with.
Jack Malik (Himesh Patel, in his debut performance) is a struggling musician on the English seaside. One night, a world-wide blackout occurs and Jack gets in a bike accident, losing a tooth and having to go to the hospital. When he is released, his friends, led by Ellie (Lily James), who moonlights as his manager, buy him a new guitar as a friendly gesture for his injury. Testing it out, he sings “Yesterday” by The Beatles, which he believes is one of the most popular songs ever made. However, much to his surprise, none of his friends have never heard that song nor heard of The Beatles. After some quick research, he finds out The Beatles do not exist. Jack then makes the decision to start singing every Beatles song ever made (the fact that he knows every word to every song, which is at least 125 songs, is annoyingly convenient) and becomes an overnight sensation, signing a record deal and performing giant concerts for thousands of people.
I’m not half the man I used to be
There’s a shadow hanging over me“
In 2009, Danny Boyle won an Oscar for Best Director for Slumdog Millionaire, a film that swept the Oscars that year. Though Boyle deserved the award for the film, his win also seemed like a recognition award for a director who put in years of excellent work, creating unique, visceral films like Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, and Sunshine. Even Boyle’s follow-up to Slumdog Millionaire, the Oscar-nominated 127 Hours, was a great film and arguably better then Slumdog. But then suddenly (see what I did there?), it seems like Boyle lost his touch. Though 2015’s Steve Jobs is very good and Boyle showed flashes of brilliance, with films like Trance, T2 Trainspotting (a wildly unnecessary sequel), and his attempt at T.V. with Trust, Boyle’s visual flare and powerhouse directing seemed to all but be gone. Yesterday is further proof that Boyle has lost it. If you didn’t tell me this was a Danny Boyle movie, I would have guessed it had been made by some generic director, not a past Oscar winner. Boyle doesn’t do anything interesting here at all. It almost seemed like he just pointed the camera, told the actors to read their lines, and moved on to the next scene. None of the performances pop, none of the performances of the songs are exciting, and there is nothing visually appealing about this movie. Will Boyle get his grove back? I hope so, but it isn’t looking promising.
All my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay”
Yesterday is full of problems. Though Boyle’s direction is very lackluster, majority of the troubles (eh? eh?) in the film come from the script. The idea of this movie is fantastic and had so much potential, but none of that potential is met. It came to a point where I was asking myself, “what is the point of this movie?” Is this a love story between Jack and Ellie and Jack uses the Beatles music to realize he actually loves her? I wish. There is a love story here, but it is incredibly generic and bland and the music barely plays in it. Is it a fun fantasy movie? Well, slightly. We find out throughout the film that it wasn’t just The Beatles that got washed away in this blackout. Coca-Cola, cigarettes, and the band Oasis were also victims, among I’m sure other things. Does the film touch on the fact that those are gone? Nope, those scenes just fly by and we never talk about them again. A more interesting movie would have been how this one man navigates the world constantly finding out some things he knew and loved no longer exist. Does the movie ever explain or touch upon why this one, singular man is the only one who remembers The Beatles, Coca-Cola, and cigarettes? Not even a little bit.
What Yesterday could have been was a love-note to John, Paul, George, and Ringo and their beautiful work. But the film doesn’t even act as that. Firstly, we never see Jack perform a whole song, only snippets. If I’m seeing a movie about the music of The Beatles, highlight the music! Don’t give me snippets, give me full performances so I can at least enjoy the the reason I am there. Yesterday also features a wildly confusing message. At the beginning of the film, when Jack is becoming famous because his “songs” are so good, it felt like Curtis was saying if The Beatles were around today, they would be better than every artist working, which is probably true. But then a weird shift in that idea happens. There is a segment of the movie where Jack is on tour with Ed Sheeran (who’s actually kind of fun). Ed is so impressed with Jack that he challenges him to a “song-off” of sorts, where the two have ten minutes to write an original song. Jack’s song isn’t original, it’s a Beatles song. Ed’s song, however, is a beautiful original song that, in the movie, he came up with on the spot in ten minutes. So what is Curtis saying? He went from calling out modern music to showing that Sheeran is a really talented writer and musician and Jack isn’t? How does that make sense? It doesn’t. Nothing does in Yesterday.
Love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away”
Yesterday does for The Beatles what Bohemian Rhapsody did for Queen. Though two completely different movies, these films aren’t worthy of these great bands. Yesterday is a flatly made, confusingly stupid movie. There is a moment in the film where they change the words of “Hey, Jude” to “Hey, Dude”, a blasphemous scene that, like the rest of the movie, is never revisited. Since they’re changing lyrics, I’m going to do the same.
“Oh, I don’t believe, in Yesterday.”
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