MOVIE REVIEW: Beatles rom-com hits all the right notes


Three and a half stars

Director Danny Boyle

Starring Himesh Patel, Lily James, Ed Sheeran

Rating M

Running time 116 minutes

Verdict Catchy rom-com runs on Beatlejuice

Fancy a sweet shot of nostalgia with your glitch-in-the-space-time-continuum musical?

Then Yesterday, about a struggling British singer-songwriter who awakes from a coma to discover he's the only person on the planet to remember The Beatles, has got you covered.

Imagining a world without John, Paul, George and Ringo gives screenwriter Richard Curtis (Love Actually) and director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) an excuse to raid the Fab Four's extensive back catalogue.

And the narrative conceit of handing those exemplary pop tunes to an unsuccessful artist lends them fresh perspective.

English actor Himesh Patel (EastEnders) adds texture with well-judged performance which draws upon his everyman charisma.

He doesn't do a half-bad job with the songs, either.

Himesh Patel and Lily James in a scene from Yesterday.
Himesh Patel and Lily James in a scene from Yesterday.

Yesterday is a superior jukebox musical and it hits all the right notes as a crowd-pleasing rom-com.

But then, it's directed by a British dream team, with the director of Trainspotting and 28 Days Later reining in his colleague's tendency towards schmaltzy excess.

Lily James (Downton Abbey) creates a solid romantic foil as the slightly dorky high school teacher who moonlights as the lead character's manager (the Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again star barely gets to sing a note).

But this is Patel's film.

After years of performing in empty pubs to his three best friends, Jack Malik finally decides to call it quits.

Riding home from his last, failed gig, Jack is struck by a bus at the exact instant the lights go out all over the entire world

When he comes to - bruised black-and-blue and missing his two front teeth - The Beatles, Oasis, cigarettes and Coca-Cola no longer exist.

After some rather perfunctory soul-searching, Jack claims the Fab Four's songs as his own, desperately wracking his brains to remember some of the more obscure lyrics (Eleanor Rigby eludes him for much of the film).

Himesh Patel as Jack Malic in a scene from Yesterday.
Himesh Patel as Jack Malic in a scene from Yesterday.

There's a fun scene in which Jack is constantly interrupted by his lovingly condescending parents after they ask him to perform one of "his" new tunes.

Even The Beatles' proven pop smarts don't initially improve Jack's fortunes.

It's only when Ed Sheeran hears one of the songs on a local TV talk show that his meteoric ascent begins.

Kate McKinnon delivers a scene-stealing performance as Jack's brutally honest, money-hungry industry rep.

When he tries to sneak one of his own songs onto the new album, she dismisses it as so boring and forgettable, she can't even be bothered listening to it again to be sure.

Of course, the greater Jack's success, the more his conscience troubles him.

Ellie, long suffering manager, No.1 fan and would-be lover, serves as his moral compass.

Even when you know you are being played like a three-chord rock 'n' roll standard, the natural exuberance of Yesterday's appealing romantic leads carries you along.

Opens Thursday

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