Yesterday review

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Danny Boyle directs, Richard Curtis writes: here’s our review of Yesterday.

Certificate: 12A
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Himesh Patel, Lily James
Release date: Out now
Reviewer: Simon Brew

There is much to like here. Yesterday, a creative union of writer Richard Curtis and director Danny Boyle, offers a very straightforward, high concept pitch: what if you lived in a world where nobody else remembered The Beatles? What if their songs and legacy had been wiped from the face of the earth, and you were the only one who could remember them and their work?

Taking a leaf out of the Groundhog Day school of explaining only what’s necessary, that’s just what happens to Himesh Patel’s Jack. One day, there’s a 12-second blip that affects the planet – the global equivalent of switching everything off and on – and when normality resumes, Jack has been hit in a traffic accident, lost two teeth, and is the one person on Earth who remembers The Beatles and their songbook. To this stage, he’s been a struggling musician, supported by his manager and friend Ellie (Lily James). Suddenly, he has the kind of songs that bring Ed Sheeran to your kitchen, as Sanjeev Bhaskar bashes around looking for a midnight snack.

Does, then, Jack pass off The Beatles’ songs as his own, as he attempts to find fame? How does the relationship with Ellie deal with the choices he makes and the decisions she takes? And does all this add up to a fun summer romcom? Well, yes it does. The romcom side is meat and drink to Curtis, of course, and he brings us another couple you can’t help but root for. Winningly played by Patel and James, their chemistry is demonstrated in an exceptional, tender scene that takes place at a UK mainline train station. As he showed with his time travel film About Time, Curtis is as interested in the big concept as he needs to be, focusing more on his characters, perhaps sacrificing some of the fun he could have had with the larger idea.

But the smaller story, of two people following their dreams, proves more interesting. Director Danny Boyle gives this scale and unusual British geography, culminating in a terrific scene with 6000 extras. And there’s a mix of supporting players who bolster the ensemble, although personally I found neither Ed Sheeran nor Kate McKinnon – of whom I’m a big fan – the highlights of the picture.

Instead, for all its big ideas, it’s the core characters that won me over, coupled to some excellent music sequences, a fair few chuckles, a plot you could in all probability build tunnels through, but a warm feeling at the end of it all.

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