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Blu-ray Review: Yesterday

September 24, 2019

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is a struggling folk musician in the small English town of Suffolk, who finds himself in a complicated predicament when he gets hit by a bus and knocked off his bike at the exact same moment that a global blackout shuts off the world’s power for twelve seconds.

When he wakes up in the hospital, Jack discovers that he is the only one left who remembers the music of The Beatles, prompting him to start performing their songs and passing them off as his own. When he is discovered by Ed Sheeran (playing himself), Jack becomes an overnight sensation and starts being praised as the greatest songwriter of all time.

This attracts the attention of a ruthless manager, Debra Hammer (Kate McKinnon), who wants to capitalize on his success through a major record deal. But his newfound success is complicated by moral dilemmas about whether or not it is right to pass the songs off as his own, even though in this timeline The Beatles never existed as a band. Jack’s sudden fame also further complicates things with his childhood friend and longtime manager Ellie Appleton (Lily James). She has feelings for him, but he leaves her behind to further his career, altering the course of both their lives.

This is the high concept premise behind Yesterday, the latest film from director Danny Boyle, with a screenplay by veteran romantic comedy scribe Richard Curtis. Before going any further in this review, I should be upfront about the fact that I’m a fan of The Beatles, a great admirer of Boyle as a filmmaker, and I’ve always had a soft spot for the work of Curtis, so this movie worked for me in a big way. This is a completely charming, gently funny and at times moving celebration of the Fab Four’s music, and the larger impact that their songs have had upon society.

Boyle and Curtis use their high concept premise to explore deeper themes about the ownership of art, and Yesterday reveals itself to be surprisingly thoughtful as it goes along. The screenplay also smartly understands that The Beatles themselves did not exist in a vacuum, and there are clever references to several other things that also don’t exist in their absence, from the band Oasis to Coca Cola, showing how you can’t just remove one thing from history without having it ricochet out to create other changes as well. There are a few twists along the way that range from fun to poignant.

The performances are quite strong and keep us involved in the story. Patel, making his feature debut, carries the film with a star-making turn, delivering some lovely covers of the classic songs including the title track. James makes for an appealing and likeable romantic lead. Sheeran seems to be having a lot of fun playing himself, revealing solid acting chops and good comedic timing. Working as both a fantastical exploration of how different the world would be without the music of The Beatles and a sweetly sincere love story, Yesterday is a perfectly calibrated piece of pop entertainment, and it’s set to an obviously great soundtrack.

The Blu-ray also includes an alternate ending and an alternate opening, a dozen deleted scenes, footage of Patel performing the songs “Yesterday,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Let It Be” live at Abbey Road Studios, a short gag reel, as well as the featurettes A Talented Duo, Playing for Real, Soul Mates, Ed Sheeran: From Stadium to Screen, Agent of Comedy: Kate McKinnon, and A Conversation With Richard and Ed. Finally, there is a commentary track by Boyle and Curtis.

Yesterday is a Universal Home Entertainment release. It’s 117 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: September 24th, 2019

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 24, 2019 11:20 pm

    My wife and I were so excited about this movie, particularly her because The Beatles are gods to her. Alas, it started out so strong and just fizzled. Am a bit curious about the alternate ending and bonus material, but not sure it is enough to buy the Blu-ray.

    Like

    • September 25, 2019 1:11 am

      Sorry to hear that the film didn’t live up to your expectations. As for the alternate ending, it’s more of an extended version of what’s already in the movie. It adds a few new details – with the main differences being that Jack sings the Ed Sheeran song “One Life” in the car, and Ellie says the line about Harry Potter instead – but it doesn’t really change the actual outcome. It’s worth a look, but maybe see if you can rent it if you aren’t entirely sure about purchasing?

      Like

      • September 25, 2019 5:29 am

        Would not be any point now that you’ve spoiled, but thanks anyway 🙂

        Like

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