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Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle has been praised over the years for his films, including Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours and Trainspotting. What happens when he teams up with legendary writer of Love Actually, Notting Hill and About Time, Richard Curtis, for a fantasy musical comedy about a struggling musician who wakes up one morning as the only man in the world who remembers the Beatles?
Yesterday premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in New York City over the weekend, which means critics have how seen it ahead of its summer release. Do they recommend a ticket to ride this release? Their reactions are mixed among them, as they waver between glowing and dissatisfying. Let’s take a look at some of their thoughts starting with CinemaBlend’s own Mike Reyes, who absolutely loved it. In his review, he awarded the movie with a near-perfect score of 4.5 out of 5 stars. Here’s a bit of what he had to say:
Yesterday is an uplifting triumph of heartfelt comedy, believable drama, and just the right amount of quirk to remove this film from any sort of mundane reality. In its own way, it even ponders how successful The Beatles's material would be, and the challenges it would face, if it were coming up in the modern music industry; which only adds to the film's sly thoughtfulness.
The film is framed around Jack Malik, played by Himesh Patel, who gets into a bus accident during a global blackout and finds he alone who knows the words to “All You Need is Love” among the Fab Four’s iconic discography. Reyes felt the bizarre premise worked - all while charming him with an exciting story with a mix of romance, lightness and drama. He also enjoyed how Yesterday uniquely presented the Beatles music in a refreshing way.
Empire’s Helen O’Hara also raved about this aspect of Yesterday in her 4 out of 5 star review. There’s been an uptick of musical films lately, and she felt this movie did it right where others have left something to be desired. Here’s what she said:
There’s something profoundly disturbing about the idea of a world without The Beatles, whether you’re a die-hard fan or someone known to drunkenly chant the “la la” bit of ‘Hey Jude’, and that’s true even if the world’s loss is our hero’s gain. So while Danny Boyle’s new film is still a largely warm and frequently surprising affair, its unusual premise gives it an edge that other jukebox hits – Bohemian Rhapsody, for example – have lacked.
O’Hara thinks just about everyone can enjoy this flick, even those unfamiliar with the band’s significance. This is a noteworthy positive for David Crow of Den of Geek who said the following about Yesterday:
His film is a crash course in remembering the importance of the Beatles’ legacy. That might sound trite, but the movie finds a much more creative and earnest way to honor a pop star act than the myriad of empty-headed musical biopics we’ve been inundated with for decades.
Yesterday will follow the success of Bohemian Rhapsody and upcoming release of Rocketman, and thankfully it has something else going for it, since it will follow a modern-day premise of Jack using his knowledge of Beatles’ songs to create a successful career for himself today. However, not all critics were impressed with it. The Verge’s Adi Robertson had these comments for example:
Boyle and Curtis are making an alternate history film that’s not primarily about alternate history, which is a completely valid choice. But the film’s central romance is badly underwritten, and its slapdash, joke-driven worldbuilding pokes holes in a plot that was fantastical to start with. Yesterday is a story about the pure and timeless nature of music — but it often comes off as more rote than heartfelt.
It’s understandable that while some would be able to swim in the fantasy of Yesterday’s quirky premise, others will be put off by it and Robertson wasn’t alone in the problems she found through her review. Take a look at a bit of Owen Gleiberman’s review for Variety:
In “Yesterday,” the greatness of the Beatles is like a trump card that Jack, and the filmmakers, keep playing. Yet the greatness of the Beatles is never something the film invites us to discover. The songs, to be fair, are iconic — but that said, some Beatles songs are more iconic than others. And “Yesterday” features nothing but the Beatles tracks that you would put on a “12 All-Time Greatest Songs of the Beatles!” collection.
The movie doesn’t look to convince everyone that the Beatles’ music would be as popular today, in the way that Yesterday showcases anyway. Dan Callahan with The Wrap similarly bashed the movie for its delivery of its plot with these words:
If you’re going to make a film with a plot like “Yesterday,” the least you can do is probe it somewhat and push it as far as it will go. But Curtis and Boyle offer up pretty much what you would expect given this premise, which basically amounts to Patel doing passable karaoke versions of these famous songs and very little else.
Finally, let’s go to Digital Spy’s Ian Sandwell who gave the film 4 stars out of 5 and brings to attention what element in the movie sold him despite some oddity in the film’s idea. Check it out:
A large part of this is down to the engaging performances of Himesh Patel (in his first big-screen role) and Lily James, who share great chemistry. You're fully behind their friendship and feel all the heartbreak. Neither of them are the cool kids, and their endearing characters help sell the outrageous concept.
The story between the two core characters was enough for him to fall in love with Yesterday. Despite some mixed reviews from critics, the movie looks to charm music fans, especially of the Beatles if you can push aside some of the particulars of the concept.
Will you be checking out Yesterday on June 28? Let us know in the comments.