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Can’t Buy Me Love: A Review Of 'Yesterday'

Danny Boyle’s new film, Yesterday, has a premise that comes straight out of science-fiction; as in what if a global power black-out (think this film’s version of the Blip) suddenly wiped out bits of memory from practically everyone, save for some individuals who now carried information and knowledge shared with no-one else. 

What if one such individual was a struggling singer-songwriter, toiling for years as a busker performing in small pubs in the south of England, and he discovered that while he carried the whole Beatles songbook in his memory banks, everyone in the world had never heard of the band (or Oasis- one of the film’s inside jokes). Does the Blip allow you to now present the Beatles songs as your own compositions, or will artistic integrity still rule?


It’s a great premise, and in the hands of Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting, 127 Hours), and a screenplay courtesy of Richard Curtis (Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually, and About Time), you know you’ll be in good hands. At its core, Yesterday is a romantic comedy that flirts with themes of honesty, of whether all the fame and fortune can take the place of happiness and love, and how career can often blind you to what’s standing right in front of you. 

Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is our struggling singer, managed in small town fashion by Ellie (Lily James), who believes in Jack and carries a torch for him. It’s when Jack digitally releases some of the Beatles songs as his own, and gets noticed by Ed Sheeran (playing himself), that the whole musical roller coaster ride commences. Deborah (the always hilarious Kate McKinnon) is the American talent manager of Ed Sheeran, and she immediately sees the potential of Malik’s ‘new’ songs and sets out to repackage him.


It’s one comedic set piece after another, and in true Richard Curtis fashion, he’s great at creating memorable minor characters—who can forget Rhys Ifans as Spike, William’s (Hugh Grant) flatmate in Notting Hill. In Yesterday, it’s Jack’s roadie, Rocky (Joel Fry) who wonderfully scene-steals and plays off Jack, Elie, and even Ed Sheeran, whenever he shows up. And even Sheeran is great here, ready to be the butt of several of the jokes and funny asides.


Yesterday is a charming, unpretentious film, that’s out to explore the premise and tightly wind down the story in true feel good fashion. While it does let off Jack too lightly for perpetrating the musical hoax, there’s a palpable love for the Beatles musical heritage and how the songs are just too precious not to be shared with the world. I loved how they incorporate the performing of songs like "Help!" to mirror the mental state of our protagonist, and take pot shots at the crass business side of the music industry. 

Yesterday is a small gem of a film, and music fans will enjoy this Magical Mystery Tour. 


Images from imDb