Being a full on basic bitch, I love a good Richard Curtis film. So inevitably, I have been banging on about how great Yesterday looks for at least the last 14 years.
I skipped off to see it at my glorious Odeon Luxe, alongside my lovely friend Laura who I was thrilled to witness pull a couple of cans of G&T out of her backpack as the film began. Like attracts like, and beautiful boozey cinema friends are for life.
Though the story was written by Jack Barth, the screenplay was crafted by national treasure and man I would like to be friends with, Richard Curtis – of Love Actually, Four Weddings, Notting Hill fame. On the other hand, the film is directed inexplicably by also national treasure but man I am a bit afraid of: Danny Boyle.
If you’ve somehow avoided hearing about the plot for this, it’s as intriguing as it is implausible – failing musician Jack (Himesh Patel) gets hit by a bus, and wakes up to find he’s the only person on earth who remembers The Beatles. He passes all the songs he can remember off as his own, leading to overnight success and a spot supporting Ed Sheeran on tour.
The compulsory love interest comes in the form of his manager (only while he’s shit) Ellie, played by angel living amongst us, Lily James. She is in love with Jack, for no fathomable reason – which is very judgemental of me to say when actually I have been in love with several very poor musicians over my 28 year existence. Haven’t we all?
It’s not exactly an unpleasant film to watch on a Saturday night, with one of your girlfriends while you drink G&T out of a tin. The debatably excessive 2 hour running time pootled by rather nicely, peppered with enough humour and light jeopardy to keep most people entertained, including myself. I say most because 2 people sat behind us did walk out about half way through, but maybe they just really weren’t ready for the excessive Ed Sheeran.
There’s some quite nice moments in the first half of the film, and the bits where Jack is discovering that he’s the sole remaining Beatles-fan provide probably the best laughs of the film – with one particular scene where he’s playing ‘Let It Be’ for the first time to his parents being a definite highlight. There’s also the much applauded scene where he performs Yesterday to his friends in a beer garden, though any real magic for me was lost from seeing this 650 times over the last few months in the trailer.
But issues, there are aplenty. Primarily: it’s not nearly as good as I wanted it to be. Remember About Time? What a fucking great film! I would watch that over and over and over again because it has enough charm to make me feel giddy with joy. So where did this go wrong?
It’s easy to point out the main difference here: Danny Boyle. I really didn’t like the direction, with a lot of the shots/graphics feeling really jarring and unsuited to a light hearted rom com. Do I need to watch Jack and Ellie at an angle that looks like the camera’s been dropped on the floor? Do I need to have every change of location announced to me in 10ft high, Word Art-esque lettering? No. Stop it.
Before I begin to denounce Ed Sheeran, please refer to this much superior Guardian review where the writer calls him a ‘turnip’ because I can only dream of such an accurate description of his performance. The whole things feels like he’s randomly paid someone to be in this – he keeps popping up out of nowhere to painfully ‘act’ his way through a few scenes. From the first time he appears in Jack’s kitchen, the whole thing feels excruciatingly weird. It all might’ve worked better with the role of superstar being played by an actual actor, as by the time you hear Ed Sheeran songs turn up in the soundtrack it starts to feel like a sponsored ad.
The quite lovely beginning of this film is unfortunately tarred by a really quite strange third act, (we all know about THAT scene), and a deeply disappointing ending. It gives you exactly what you’re expecting, and cements the feeling that this is all a bit lacklustre.