A collaboration between one of my favourite directors and one of my favourite writers, it is safe to say that I had extremely high hopes for Yesterday. Walking out of the theatre with a smile on my face and a spring in my step, this new film by Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis manages to not only meet but in some ways exceed my expectations; delivering one of the best rom-coms I have ever seen.
Building on the brilliant About Time, Curtis delivers another masterfully elaborate script that uses an extreme concept in the best way. Based in a world without the Beatles, Yesterday uses this elaborate setup as a springboard for interesting characters and realistic conflicts that, despite being fantastical in nature, creates a genuinely human and grounded story that can connect with anyone. It is incredible how Curtis manages to tap into such emotion and humanity through showing that, even with these bizarre twists, it can never take away from what really matters to people – love, friendship and family. These are the themes that the film is based on and the eventual goal of the main character Jack Malik as he journeys from being a failed musician to the world’s greatest singer-songwriter through hijacking the songs of the suddenly non-existent Beatles. Malik is played by unknown Himesh Patel in a career-making performance that grounds the story and makes the often absurd dialogue work within the film. He is supported by the always strong Lily James who threatens to steal the hearts of every person watching with her genuine portrayal of someone trapped in the friend zone. Another surprising highlight was Ed Sheeran who was far less distracting than I feared and honestly offered a lot of humour at his own expense whilst further making the film feel real and grounded in our own world despite the fantastical premise.
What gives Yesterday an edge over similar work is the direction of Danny Boyle, who brings his trademark kinetic and vibrant style to a very relevant story of sudden fame and fortune. Boyle expertly blends stylistic sequences with camerawork that frequently puts the viewer amongst the actual audiences within the film. This allows us to connect with Jack on a personal level whilst at the same time keeping him at arm’s length when the story demands it; therefore, distancing the viewer as those Jack holds dear are also pushed away. This beautiful style of filmmaking fits so perfectly when working within one of Curtis’ elaborate but optimistic stories that it is hard not to fall in love with his view of the world and I believe this film is evidence to validate the often dismissed rom-com genre as more than just light entertainment.
Yesterday is a breath of fresh air in a year of blockbusters, reboots and sequels. It uses an elaborate premise to tell a beautiful story and does so to an amazing soundtrack. With so many biopics currently in production, this original story feels like a much better way of paying tribute to such iconic music whilst still providing stellar entertainment. So if I have one piece of advice this summer, why don’t you follow the long and winding road less travelled and give Yesterday a chance.