Film creates musical ‘yesterday’

Himesh Patel and Lily James star in “Yesterday.”

Himesh Patel and Lily James star in “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. 

Grade: B