By Laurie Coker
Yesterday were the Beatles and today, only a glimmer remains – or no memory of them all. Director Danny Boyle takes his viewers on an enchanted journey in this twist on the music of the Fab Four. Written by Richard Curtis, Yesterday offers a modern mix of Beatles music in a sentimental and sweet tale about one man’s disenchantment with his life and the unexpected path he takes to discover what is important. Boyle manages an uncustomary soft touch, when “Love is all you need.”
England’s EastEnders soap opera star Himesh Patel stars as Jack Malik a struggling singer-songwriter who wakes up after surviving an accident to find that no one but he remembers The Beatles. Wide-eyed he wonders if the joke is on him until he discovers that no one is laughing. While at first hesitant to call them his own, Jack racks his memory to conjure up the lyrics of the John, Paul, George, and Ringo. His friends and manager, Ellie (Lilly James) marvel at the magic in the music Jack mystifyingly writes. After passing off a few songs in small venues, unable to resist the taste of fame, Jack ditches his past for the glory and glamor of musical stardom.
While Patel plays Jack with likable and sweet subtleness, it is James that delights with her effervescence. Together they make a cute couple only Jack is too dense to notice that Ellie is entirely smitten. The ensemble cast, like so many in British, romcom king Wright’s quiver, hit the target squarely on. While rare for Boyle, Wright makes schmaltzy scrumptious. The pairing of Patel and James is precious, and the music of The Beatles reimagined works as the ideal backdrop to their bumpy love story. If only Jack could hear the audience “twist and shout,” “she loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah.”
Yesterday takes on a not-so-long and winding road with a few sometimes-predictable turns, but ultimately, it works. It trots along at a nice pace, and before we know it, Jack and Ellie have stolen our hearts and reintroduced us to the music that has moved generations. Wright has done it again, and Boyle proves he can jump genres. Yesterday earns a B+.