Film Review: In “Yesterday,” Danny Boyle Injects a Bit of Originality into the Rags-to-Riches Story

Film poster: “Yesterday”

Yesterday (Danny Boyle, 2019) 2 out of 4 stars.

Danny Boyle, a filmmaker with one of the most eclectic filmographies imaginable, jumps headfirst into the traditional romantic comedy and uses a script by Love Actually’s Richard Curtis to inject a dose of originality into the genre in Yesterday, an ode to the legacy of the Beatles. Making his big screen debut, Himesh Patel plays Jack Malik, an aspiring singer and songwriter who is desperate to make his big break into the music industry. After surviving a harsh bike accident during an unexpected global blackout, Jack finds out to his dismay that everyone in the entire world has forgotten about the Beatles. Determined not to let the Beatles’ legacy disappear forever and seeing a great opportunity for success, Jack writes and sings all of the Beatles’ songs from memory and soon becomes the hottest musician on Earth.

I applaud Boyle and Curtis for applying an admittedly ridiculous but charming hook to the rom-com and rags-to-riches formulas. One could argue that the idea that if the Beatles and their music were non-existent the world wouldn’t be the same is beyond self-indulgent. However, I can’t help but cut Yesterday some slack because I can’t pretend that the sudden disappearance of Star Wars or Indiana Jones wouldn’t flip my world upside down. Yesterday is an imaginative wet dream for fanatics of anything under the sun, and that’s the best way to view the film.

Himesh Patel and Lily James in YESTERDAY ©Universal Pictures

While the premise is funny on paper, its execution leaves a lot to be desired. Sure, Boyle and Curtis have a little bit of fun with the public amnesia when Jack discovers throughout the story that other pop-culture icons don’t exist anymore. Other than that running gag, a serviceable visual style, and admirable performances from Patel, Lily James and Kate McKinnon, Boyle and Curtis rarely stray from the story beats commonly seen in most romantic comedies and success stories. Hard to say if the minor originality of Curtis’ script will receive notice from the Academy, but any attempt at innovation, no matter the missteps, should be looked at and studied and hopefully serve as inspiration for the next unique take on a story as old as you and I.

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About Patrick Howard

Patrick Howard has been a cinephile since age seven. Alongside 10 years of experience in film analysis and criticism, he is a staunch supporter of all art forms and believes their influence and legacy over human culture is vital. Mr. Howard takes the time to write his own narrative stories when he can.
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