No man knows how to make me feel like Richard Curtis. Ever since Four Weddings and a Funeral in 1994, I’ve paid close attention to the man’s products. Through Mr. Bean, Blackadder, Bridget Jones’s Diary, The Boat That Rocked, and my two personal favorites Love Actually and About Time, the man knows how to make a rom-com. And a rom-com men can embrace, sometimes even more than its target audience.
Yesterday may feel like Curtis Lite in the rom-com arena, at least he’s able to get by with a little help from his friends. With director Danny Boyle — Curtis sadly stated he will never direct another film after About Time — at the helm, a winning big screen debut for Himesh Patel, and $10 million worth of Beatles songs in their arsenal, the sleeper feel good counter programming hit of the summer has arrived.
Jack Malick (Patel) just wants people to hear his music. His manager/best friend/unrequited love interest Ellie (Lily James) tries to make it happen. While most of his gigs are typically playing in front of merely handfuls of people, all that is about to change. One night, a freak solar flare causes the whole world to go dark for seconds, with Jack getting hit by a bus in the process.
After Jack wakes up, he slowly learns that absolutely no one has ever heard of The Beatles. Now, Jack embarks on a personal mission to bring their music back to the world while sorting out his own feelings toward Ellie, and trying to decide between love and fame. Meanwhile, two strangers seem to be hot on his tail, causing some serious guilt, but just can’t resist the temptation for stardom when Ed Sheeran, and big time producer Debra Hammer (Kate McKinnon), offer him a bounty of “Strawberry Fields Forever.”
It’s been a dark time for myself and my colleagues these past two weeks with the passing of Big Movie Mouth Off’s Jimmy Martin — a show I was honored to have co-hosted on several occasions. Something as lighthearted and whimsical as Yesterday was more than welcome to say the least. While it may only offer a temporary diversion to our new harsh reality, it’s a fantastic two hours at the movies. Boyle may employ a few too many onscreen social media graphics — something that would have hilariously annoyed Jimmy — but he keeps the focus on the music, providing ample opportunities for Patel to belt out our favorite, classic, and even some possibly lesser known, Beatles tunes.
Yesterday may not find the depths Curtis has mined before — let’s just say the father/son twist of About Time was a particular suckerpunch — but he’s not working in that kind of wheelhouse here. Thankfully, Patel and James make a great couple to root for, McKinnon is a hilarious pseudo-villain, and the soundtrack is everything one could hope it to be. Featuring acoustic and rocking alternatives to what we’re used to hearing — “Help!” being a particular standout — Curtis and Boyle clearly wanted to just have a good time and so will you. Yesterday is a loving ode to the band everyone knows and sometimes, even when a film loses sight of what the studio wants you to think it’s about, it never loses focus of what it’s really trying to deliver: the music.