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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Yesterday Movie Review: A Humorous, Imaginative Ode to The Beatles

Yesterday is special as it promises to be Eastenders’ actor Himesh Patel’s breakthrough film. 

Plus, after a 10-year-hiatus since Slumdog Millionaire, director Danny Boyle presents a narrative with an Asian angle. 

Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is a struggling singer-songwriter in a tiny English seaside town.

His dreams of fame are rapidly fading, despite the fierce devotion and support of his childhood best friend, Ellie (Lily James).

Then, after a freak bus accident during a mysterious global blackout, Jack wakes up in another world, where The Beatles do not exist.

Jack performs songs by a band to a world that has never heard them, and his steel-hearted American agent, Debra (Kate McKinnon), helps to propel him to stardom.

However, as his star rises, he risks losing Ellie — the one person who always believed in him.

Danny Boyle’s Cinematic Excellence & Social Relevance

Danny Boyle, as per usual, impresses the audience through his cinematic aesthetics.

The sequence where Jack realises that The Beatles no longer exists is impressive.

The ranging camera shots, upbeat, electro background score are all contributing factors to exhibit the increasing tension and confusion.

Also, the editing is crisp and sharp.

For instance, a loud scene where Jack performs at a B&B in Liverpool is slash-cut to a shot was the singer sits quietly in his green room.

Sequences like this enhance the cinematic impact of the film.

The Beatles, as a band, is presented as an additional character… Almost like how Springsteen is Gurinder Chadha’s Blinded By The Light.

Boyle pays a great homage to the legendary group and smartly embeds the songs to enrich the visual appeal.

In fact, it is interesting to see how Chadha and Boyle have included Asian protagonists who idolise and are inspired by western artists.

Perhaps it’s high time that such tracks are included to depict how well we have integrated into the British lifestyle. It’s time widespread audiences witness our perspectives.

With two musical personalities included (the other being Ed Sheeran), it almost seems as though the film is conveying how today’s music enthusiasts must acknowledge and appreciate the legends.

Plus, given that we live in an era of song ‘covers’ and remixes, this message is highly relevant.

Himesh Patel and Other Great Performances


As the trailer promises, there is ample humour and entertainment… Though this mainly comes from the well-written characters and of course, performances.

Himesh Patel is confident and seamless as Jack Malik.

Despite playing quite a baffled character, he does not look like a rabbit caught in the headlight at any point in the film.

Whether it’s maintaining a straight face and saying a sarcastic joke or shouting out in stress or confusion, he is effortless in switching between both moods.

This is definitely his breakout performance and has the potential to make it big in the industry.

Meera Syal and Sanjeev Bhaskar appear in brief roles as Jack’s parent and their characters are there just for comic relief.

Whilst it is progressive that they are not stereotypically Desi, it would’ve been to see them be incorporated in a more emotional way.

Lily James, as always, is first-rate. It is great to see how she is not reduced to a ‘love-interest’ per se.

She sticks by her principles and does not fall prey to chasing the man.

Through characters like Jack’s manager Debra Hammer (played Kate Mckinnon), the film makes a tongue-in-cheek statement about the entertainment industry.

However, the real show-stealer is Joel Fry as Rocky – Jack’s friend and assistant. His dimwitted behaviour and deadpan one-liners truly ticker the funny bones.

Ed Sheeran plays himself in the film… He does okay though at times it feels as if he will just burst out laughing at any second.

What Could Be Better?

The comedic and cinematic content is present throughout the film. However, the whole premise of the film just seems questionable.

Even if we are convinced that the world is uninitiated with The Beatles, it does not make sense why suddenly Coke (Coca Cola), Harry Potter and Cigarettes do not exist.

Is Danny Boyle trying to depict how a world without popular content in Britain would seem?

Or is it just there for a ‘leave-your-brains-at-home comedy? Some clarity is needed as it just leaves me in a yellow submarine full of confusion.

The film stretches in the second-half. The conclusion is unnecessarily prolonged and it could’ve ended at least 15 minutes shorter.

In addition, the romantic angle becomes quite predictable… But thankfully, this time, there is no ‘Jai Ho’ song to accompany it.

Overall, Yesterday endeavours to be different, which to a certain extent, it is. But it is far from being perfect.

Having said that, the film leaves us with several questions, but perhaps Boyle intends us to just forget the logistics and indulge in this fantasy-comedy?

Also, if you’re The Beatles fan, then you might just find yourself singing throughout the movie!

⭐⭐⭐ (3/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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