A good idea is a rare and precious gift. Screenwriter Richard Curtis has had many of them, leading to such films as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually and Notting Hill. He and Jack Barth had another good one: What if a time warp erased the whole world’s memory of The Beatles, and a struggling singer presented their songs as his own? They brought this concept to director Danny Boyle, whose enthusiasm led to Yesterday.
An idea, however, is not the same thing as a story. This film is an unfortunate example of a premise that doesn’t blossom into a full-fledged screenplay. The cast is engaging enough, with Himesh Patel as a hard-luck guy who has greatness thrust upon him and Lily James as his platonic pal. They’ve been like brother and sister since childhood, always there for each other, but neither one can admit that they are truly in love. This relationship, fraught with hesitations and crises, becomes repetitious and tiresome.
Meanwhile, Patel’s woebegone character finds almost immediate success once he starts singing the Beatles catalog. He becomes an overnight sensation, traveling with Ed Sheeran, no less, and coming into the orbit of uber-manager Kate McKinnon. The world is his oyster.
There isn’t much more to the story so I needn’t elaborate. One sidelight, near the movie’s climax, struck me as downright peculiar. As to the music, I’m reminded of an old joke about a musical where the audience went into the theater humming the score. It’s never a chore to listen to the Beatles’ songs, and they provide Yesterday with an abundance of good will.
But this seemingly sure-fire movie misses the mark. I felt like I was watching a balloon as the air inside it leaked out. I can only rate it as a disappointment.