YESTERDAY: a Beatles’ Jukebox Musical in a universe where The Beatles don’t exist.

2019 is definitely the year of resurrecting old music in movies. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, ROCKETMAN, MYSTIFY and now the upcoming YESTERDAY. Danny Boyle can do no wrong and while the premise of YESTERDAY is batshit crazy it is getting nothing but praise from everyone I have heard from.

And this includes Kernel Claire who reviewed this Beatles or lack of Beatles movie. YESTERDAY releases the day after tomorrow, Thursday 27th June in Australia from the fine folks at Universal Pictures Australia. It is rated M and runs for 116mins.

Enjoy Claire’s review……….all the best…………Salty.

Himesh Patel with Guitar
Himesh Patel

BY CLAIRE SMITH:

Synopsis – We Can Work it Out

Jack Malik is a failed musician who can’t land an audience much bigger than his extended family. While cycling home from one last failed gig, Jack is accidentally hit by a bus when the world’s power cuts out across the globe for twelve seconds in a strange “Y2K” sort of phenomenon. After recovering from his injuries, Jack comes to realise he’s the only person in the world who remembers The Beatles. In this alternate universe he’s somehow woken up in – they never existed. Being a musical opportunist, Jack won’t just Let it Be and he seizes the chance to grasp fame and glory. 

Yesterday Himesh Patel
Himesh Patel

The Hippy Hippy Shake on the Performances:

Himesh Patel as The Beatles:

Relative newcomer Himesh Patel (EASTENDERS) absolutely sells this performance as Jack Malik. It helps that the dialogue is exceptionally well written. Patel’s keen, nervous energy works perfectly as the young musician grabbing his chance at fame while constantly disbelieving that this is really happening. 

Watching Jack try to process why his family would play such a weird joke as pretending they’ve never heard of The Beatles was a script-writing symphony. There is a special kind of humour when the audience is in on a joke that the protagonist doesn’t understand, and YESTERDAY portrays this brilliantly. We see Jack go through the different phases of confusion, annoyance, disbelief and finally an amazed acceptance of the weird alternate reality he’s found himself in. For a situation that may have been clunkily handled by lesser writers, Jack Barth (ATTACK THE BLOCK) and Richard Curtis (LOVE ACTUALLY, ABOUT TIME) Come Together and have outdone themselves in penning this dialogue. They must have worked Eight Days a Week to deliver such outstanding characters and interactions.

With a Little Help from My Friends:

Jack’s long time manager and friend Ellie (Lily James – CINDERELLA, BABY DRIVER) can’t seem to land Jack the audiences he deserves and is amazed to see these new songs coming from him since the accident. She can’t keep up with his new rockstar calendar which is chock-a-block with activities that take him around the world and blasting through the stratosphere into a land of fame.

Yesterday Himesh Patel and Ed Sheeran
Himesh Patel and Ed Sheeran

Although James plays her role convincingly and emotively, her placement in the scenes seems forced. Key moments of preparation for a big performance are interrupted by a knock at the door for a big argument. Or grand-scale “let’s put it all on the table” conversations are jarred to a halt by incoming messages from managers. It’s less an issue with James and more an issue with the flow of the character in the source material. It Don’t Let Me Down, but it’s worth mentioning as it is a contributing factor to some of the films lag as the storyline progresses. 

Stealing the show is SNL’s lead female Kate McKinnon (GHOSTBUSTERS, ROUGH NIGHT) as the take-no-nonsense corporate Hollywood producer. McKinnon’s antics never fail to get me giggling – And I Love Her. She’s got moxie in abundance and isn’t afraid to use it.

Ed Sheeran as Ed Sheeran:

In a refreshing placement of self-deprecating humour, Ed Sheeran (HOBBIT Soundtrack, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY soundtrack) stars as Ed Sheeran – the Salieri to Malik’s Mozart. Sheeran’s not really acting per-say – it seems more of just a case of “Ed Sheeran on film” but unlike the cameo in GAME OF THRONES this format actually works here. 

Speaking of GAME OF THRONES – keep an eye out for Rocky the Roady, played by Joel Fry. Fry played charming nobleman Hizdahr zo Loraq in GAME OF THRONES. In YESTERDAY, he plays a complete one-eighty of this character and is a spaced-out well-meaning roady to Malik. His performance is glorious and engaging and you can’t help but love the big oaf. 

The film gets by With a Little Help From My Friends – and by that I mean the side characters and supporting players are really well fleshed out. They’re realistic, they’re purposeful. They’re great.

Yesterday Himesh Patel
Himesh Patel

The Songs – can this Paperback Writer pen a musical?

YESTERDAY is more close to being musical theatre than it is to being a musical – in that the story and the action isn’t actually driven by the music. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s a choice. If the film had been framed more as a musical, it perhaps may have ostracised the film a little more – some people tend to find musicals inaccessible – but it could have helped with maintaining a high energy throughout the film. There’s such a huge catalogue of Beatles songs to choose from, it was surprising to even hear any original score in the film – but scene changes were accompanied by original background scoring instead of The Fab Four’s hits – which feels like a missed opportunity.

There’s fifteen Beatles Songs in YESTERDAY and I promise you’ll be singing them all for days afterwards. The musical performances aren’t going to revolutionise the way you hear and think of The Beatles’ music. They’re mostly just snippets of recording studios or failed attempts at covers. Anyone scared of seeing hoards of people clicking in time, or dancing choreography in the streets, need not be afraid. This is a safe place for you (heartless, joyless) folk who don’t like musicals. 

Yesterday Himesh Patel
Himesh Patel

Conclusion – make a Day Tripper to the cinema:

YESTERDAY is – quite simply – a cracker of a film. It’s just delightful. Well written, fun premise, great music. Twenty bucks Can’t Buy Me Love but it can buy you a really sweet afternoon at the movies. Make your way Across The Universe and check it out. 

YOUR REVIEWER:

Kernel Claire retired from the Salty Popcorn cob in 2014 with full honors, but was lured back to the shine of the silver screen and the Salt of the Popcorn a mere four years later. When not hand-modelling for Kernel Jason’s food-reviews, Claire can be found scootering through Sydney at a reasonable, defensive driving speed; or fussing far too much over her little black rescue cat Baxter.

Claire has worked in the Australian Cinema Industry for over 13yrs and loves it the most when she can report “sometimes I get paid to watch movies”. She’ll pretty much attend any event that includes a lanyard.