While there are plenty of good movies released every year, the movie industry is really starting to suffer from a lack of creativity. Too many movies are treading the same waters where it feels like they are just variants of one another. This is why I appreciate when a movie tries to do something original. When I first heard about Yesterday I was immediately intrigued as it seemed like it was actually trying to so something original. Being a fan of alternative history/universes in particular, the idea of a musician waking up in a world where everyone has forgotten the Beatles and then trying to pass the Beatles’ songs off as their own was a really interesting idea. While I wouldn’t consider myself to be a huge fan of the Beatles I genuinely like a lot of their songs. Yesterday could have done more with the premise but it genuinely deserves credit for doing something original in a time where very few films try something new.
We would like to thank Universal Pictures for the review copy of Yesterday used for this review. Other than receiving the review copy we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copy had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
Like many musicians Jack Malik is a struggling songwriter. Due to his continued failure to attract more than a handful of people to any particular performance, Jack is on the brink of giving up on his dream of being a musician. All that changes when a mysterious worldwide blackout leads to Jack getting into an accident. When he wakes up he soon finds out that he is the only person in the entire world that remembers the Beatles. Jack sees this as a opportunity to save his music career as he tries to bring the Beatles’ songs to the world and pass them off as his own creations. This leads Jack to becoming basically an overnight sensation. As his career flourishes he risks losing everything he cares about though including Ellie his longtime manager/friend that stuck with him when no one else believed in him. Jack must decide whether fame is worth it or if he was better off without it.
If I were to describe Yesterday I would say that it is kind of a combination of a couple different genres. At its core I would say that Yesterday is a romantic comedy. The central storyline of the film is based around the relationship between Jack and Ellie. While I would classify it as a romantic comedy, I wouldn’t say that it is your typical film from the genre. A lot of the elements of the genre are present in Yesterday, but it doesn’t really fall into the same tropes as the stereotypical romantic comedy. I think a lot of this comes from the interesting premise behind the entire film.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review I have always really enjoyed the genre of alternative histories/universes. I think the idea of changing one event having ripple effects across all of history to be quite interesting. I was really intrigued to see how the movie would explain how all but one person forgot the Beatles and what other ramifications that would have on the world. The Beatles were huge in changing the music industry and had quite a few other impacts on the world. I was curious about what kind of impacts it would have on the world that Jack wakes up in. For the most part I think the movie does a good job with the alternative universe theme. The Beatles are not the only change in this universe and it is kind of fun to see all of the little changes to the world.
Yesterday does a pretty good job with the premise but I think it could have went a little further with it. I am not going to get into too many details to avoid spoilers, but at times the alternative universe aspects of the plot seem to be glossed over. The Beatles never existing didn’t seem to have as big of impact on the world as I would have expected. There are a few ripple effects but the world for the most part seems very similar. In particular I would think that the music scene would be considerably different as the Beatles had a pretty big impact on the industry. At least in Yesterday’s universe though it doesn’t seem to have had a huge impact. There are a few other things that also don’t seem to exist in the universe (shown through Jack’s Google searches returning unexpected results), but I was hoping that there would be a few more significant changes to the universe.
In addition to the lack of the existence of the Beatles not having as much impact on the world as I was expecting, I also questioned the premise that reintroducing the Beatles’ songs to the world would make Jack an overnight superstar. While the songs would still probably do well if they were originally released today, I don’t think they would do nearly as well as the movie portrays. Today there are quite a few more genres of music and a lot of them are quite a bit different than the Beatles’ genre. I can buy that Jack would become a star by introducing/stealing the songs of the Beatles. I don’t see him basically becoming the overnight worldwide sensation that the film presents though. This isn’t a huge issue as the movie is not meant to be taken seriously, but it did take me a little out of the experience.
While I think Yesterday could have handled some of the alternative universe/history elements a little better, I really liked the story. Outside of the fact that the whole story is basically centered around copyright infringement/stealing other people’s work, I found it to be quite uplifting and charming. The story is one of those underdog stories where you want to root for the person that comes from humble beginnings to do great things. This is paired nicely with a discussion about whether fame is truly worth everything that comes with it. The romantic comedy aspects of the film also work pretty well. I am not a huge fan of romantic comedies, but I enjoy an occasional film from the genre. Parts of the film stick pretty close to your typical romantic comedy, but the movie also has some of its own unique twists as well. I wouldn’t say that the movie is laugh out loud funny but it has some genuinely funny moments. I think Yesterday does a good job combining the alternative universe and romantic comedy elements to create a genuinely charming and entertaining movie.
One of the reasons that I think Yesterday works as well as it does is because the characters are quite good. Jack (Himesh Patel) and Ellie (Lily James) in particular do a great job in the starring roles. I really liked both characters and they really drive the film. Both characters are charming and are people you genuinely want to root for. While Himesh Patel is obviously not as good of singer as the Beatles, I give him a lot of credit as he does a good job especially since all of the songs were apparently done live instead of being recorded in a studio (this fact was brought up in one of the special features). The supporting actors are also quite good. Most of the supporting characters are just used for laughs but they are still interesting. For this type of movie to work right it needed the right characters. For the most part I think the film does a great job creating the right cast of characters.
While I really liked Yesterday’s story, I think the movie feels a little long at times. The movie is not significantly too long but I think it could have shaved off a little and not adversely impacted the movie. A couple times the movie slightly dragged where I think things could have been a little more streamlined. I thought the earlier parts of the film where Jack starts to use his knowledge of the Beatles to jump start his career were fine. Some of the scenes after Jack becomes famous though seem to be a little long. I don’t think the movie should have been drastically cut down, but I think the movie could have cut five to ten minutes without adversely impacting the movie. This extra length doesn’t hurt the movie too much though so I wouldn’t consider it to be a huge issue.
Before wrapping up I wanted to quickly talk about the special features found on the Blu-ray release. The Blu-ray release of Yesterday includes quite a few special features which include:
- Alternative Ending (3:10): The alternative ending has a similar tone to the actual ending as it pretty much has the same outcome. The main difference is that it utilizes some different scenes. There is one little twist (that I am not going to spoil) in the alternative ending though that I wished they would have put into the actual ending.
- Deleted Scenes (23:29): The movie includes twelve deleted scenes. Some of the scenes are not bad and could have been included in the movie. For a lot of the deleted scenes though you can tell why they were deleted as they would have just padded the length.
- Live At Abbey Road Studios (9:50): A feature showing the songs “Yesterday”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, and “Let It Be” sung in a recording studio interspersed with scenes from the movie.
- Alternative Opening (4:47): The alternative opening is pretty similar to the original. Basically the alternative opening involves different scenes showing that Jack’s music career is not going anywhere.
- Gag Reel (2:04): This is your typical gag reel.
- A Talented Duo (3:25): A behind the scenes feature that mostly focuses on the director (Danny Boyle) and writer (Richard Curtis).
- Playing for Real (5:35): This behind the scenes feature focuses on Himesh Patel. It mostly focuses on the casting process and the process of performing all of the songs in the movie live.
- Soul Mates (4:47): A behind the scenes feature looking at the relationship between Jack and Ellie.
- Ed Sheeran: From Stadium to Screen (3:09): A feature about Ed Sheeran’s role in the movie.
- Agent of Comedy: Kate McKinnon (3:17): This behind the scenes feature is about Kate McKinnon’s character and why she was interested in being in Yesterday.
- A Conversation with Richard and Ed (3:22): A feature where Richard Curtis and Ed Sheeran talk about the movie and how the movie ended up loosely being based on Ed Sheeran’s life.
- Feature Commentary with Danny Boyle (Director) and Richard Curtis (Writer)
In general there are things I liked about the special features and other things that I think could have been better. I give the movie quite a bit of credit as it features quite a bit of additional content. The movie has over an hour of bonus material and that doesn’t include the feature commentary. The special features themselves are fine. I found out some interesting information from some of them and some of the deleted and alternative scenes were interesting. I wouldn’t say that the special features are a must watch though. If you aren’t a big fan of special features I would probably skip at least some of them. Fans of behind the scenes features though should enjoy them.
When I first heard about Yesterday I was really intrigued as the movie was trying to do something unique in an industry where studios rarely want to take a chance and thus end up making the same movies over and over again. While not a huge fan of the Beatles, even though I like a lot of their music, how could I not be intrigued by a movie where everyone in the world except for one person forgets that the Beatles ever existed. For the most part the movie does a good job with the premise. The story is fun, charming and uplifting as you see Jack go from a struggling musician to an overnight sensation. Exploring the alternative universe is interesting as well since the movie generally does a good job with the premise. At times I think the movie could have gone a little further with the premise though. I also think the movie feels a little long at times where maybe five to ten minutes could have been cut from the movie. I still really enjoyed Yesterday though.
My recommendation for Yesterday comes down to your opinion of the premise and romantic comedies in general. If you hate romantic comedies and don’t really care for the premise or the Beatles, Yesterday might not be for you. If the premise behind Yesterday really interests you though I think you will really like it and should consider picking it up.