Film creates musical ‘yesterday’
By Tom Jozwik
Published June 29, 2019
“Yesterday’s” premise is way out there: an aspiring singer named Jack Malik (Himesh Patel, in his movie debut) is hit by a bus during a worldwide blackout. When he comes to, he’s the only man in Great Britain who’s familiar with cigarettes, Harry Potter, Coca-Cola—and the Beatles.
Way out there indeed! Of course, the movie has been billed as a fantasy—a “musical fantasy comedy,” to quote one source. And so the awkwardness of its initiating incident can be forgiven as “Yesterday” proceeds to offer viewer-listeners an abundance of Beatle songs, executed very nicely by Patel, who is best-known in Britain as a soap opera star. Patel’s Jack, you see, after singing the film’s title song for awed friends—all of whom are unfamiliar with it--decides to ignite his dormant career by crooning (and claiming to have written) every Fab Four tune he can think of.
Soon enough Jack’s best friend/manager, the invariably pleasurable to watch Lily James (a math teacher by profession in “Yesterday”), is out of a part-time job and out of Mr. Malik’s day-to-day life, supplanted by a high-powered, low on people skills agent played capably by Kate McKinnon (“Saturday Night Live”). The faux Beatle has begun to take the musical world by storm, just as John-Paul-George-Ringo did some five decades ago. Will that world ever become the wiser to Jack Malik’s ruse?
Hardly hilarious, the movie (which includes a self-portrayal by singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran) is chucklingly funny, high-spirited, enjoyable and (with a chaste love story subplot and PG-13 rating) acceptable for virtually all ages. It isn’t any sort of trailblazer and director Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” was a decidedly greater accomplishment, but those wonderful, well-performed tunes transported me (and, I’m sure, many others) to some happy days of yore, no mean accomplishment.
While no Academy Awards are predicted here, I do predict that the vast majority of “Yesterday” attendees will, at the least, find the film worth their while.