I wanted to like this film more than I did. While the performances of its actors and its musical numbers did it a fair bit justice, it failed to deliver a satisfying plot and left me with many unanswered questions.
Yesterday follows the story of singer Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) and his rise to stardom, after an unexplained phenomenon leaves him as one of only a few people left in the world that remembers the Beatles’ discography. Mixed into this intriguing story is the romantic development between Jack and childhood friend Ellie (Lily James), which ends up taking precedence as the film progresses.
I first want to address what I loved about this movie. Himesh Patel in particular astounded me as the lead. Patel is a bit of a breakout actor in this movie, so having never seen him in anything else, I didn’t know what to expect from him – however, he did not disappoint. Patel carries the weight of a somewhat unstable plot with ease and remained believable no matter his character’s situation. His talents don’t stop at acting – Patel also did much of his own singing for the film, and I believe he does the Beatles justice. Lily James also stunned me with a beautiful performance as Ellie, and the chemistry between James and Patel was lovely to watch. Other notable cast members include Kate McKinnon, James Corden, and Ed Sheeran as himself. McKinnon provided the usual comic relief – and did a splendid job of it, I might add – but besides Patel and James, the the star-studded cast was not quite enough to save the movie.
My problems with this film were difficult to overcome. To start off, the plot got so twisted up in itself trying to decide what it wanted to be that it overlooked crucial plot points. For instance, what exactly caused the phenomenon that made everyone else save Jack forget the Beatles? Why, also, did everyone but Jack forget about Harry Potter, cigarettes, and Coke? Who were the other two people that also remembered who the Beatles were, and what was their relation to Jack? Why were they the only three in the world that remembered the Beatles? At the end of the day, Yesterday was unable to balance a romantic storyline with its fairly original idea of a single, struggling musician being the only one (well, one of three) in the world to remember the Beatles. I initially admired Yesterday‘s tenacity to try and implement what would appear to be a long-awaited romance between Jack and Ellie into the already interesting plot, but after a while the Beatles’ storyline was thrown away in favor of their relationship as the movie gradually became more and more of a cliché.
Although the lead performances were just enough to keep the movie’s momentum going, I thought the originality of the film was, sadly, pushed under the rug to make room for yet another summer romance flick. Yesterday is charming and mildly entertaining, but it ultimately doesn’t follow up on what could have been a promising storyline and leaves me with more questions than answers.