review by Wendy Settle
Yesterday, from director Danny Boyle (127 Days, Slumdog Mullionaire) and writer Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral), is a romantic comedy, jukebox musical and music fantasy all rolled into one film. During a freak global blackout, struggling singer/songwriter Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is hit by a bus. He awakens in the hospital to find a slightly different world. For one thing, the Beatles never existed. Jack decides to present Beatles songs as his own, leading him on a path to worldwide fame. Childhood friend Ellie (Lily James), who has always managed Jack’s career, is suddenly forced out of her role. The changed dynamic of the pair makes Jack take a deeper look at their relationship. He must choose between the love of the world or the love of his life.
I came into this film cautiously optimistic. The trailers looked funny and the premise was intriguing. But I worried it wouldn’t pay off. At several moments in the film, it could have easily taken the expected path and turned into a cheesy, predictable rom-com. But thankfully this film is smarter. It gives us charming relationships, unexpected humor and one particularly tear-inducing scene. It does not lead us along the expected path, but still has the feel good ending we hoped for.
With a backdrop of classic Beatles hits, we watch Jack go from nobody to somebody. It is a new take on the ‘what if’ premise where every decision can change his life. We see that sometimes with choices, we don’t get it right the first time. But that’s ok. We can always change the path we are on.
We also get a glimpse of how a world without the Beatles would look. We are able to listen to classic Beatles songs with new ears and fall in love with the music all over again. It is a sweet reminder how ingrained The Beatles are in our culture and how we take it for granted.
I knew going in that I would love Lily James (Mama Mia, Baby Driver) as she is always wonderful. I hadn’t seen Himesh Patel in anything, but knew he had some good credentials (BBC’s EastEnders). Patel brought a unique and respectful voice to the Beatles lyrics. James and Patel worked well together, each bringing a similar level of charm and humor. Ed Sheeran is the perfect compliment to the character of Jack, both of them breaking your mold of the typical rock star look. He has more than just the cameo role I was expecting which was good. The supporting cast is also top-notch ( including my favorite Kate McKinnon).
In summary, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll sing. But most of all, you’ll remember that of all the things you can have in life, all you really need is love.