YESTERDAY | CERT: 15 | DIRECTOR: DANNY BOYLE | SCREENPLAY: RICHARD CURTIS | STARRING: HIMESH PATEL, LILY JAMES, KATE MCKINNON ,ED SHEERAN | RELEASE DATE: JUNE 28TH
“From the writer of Love Actually and the director of Slumdog Millionaire” threatens the poster, and that’s exactly what’s served up in this warmed-over marriage of convenience between Richard Curtis and Danny Boyle that sees gormless singer/songwriter Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) smack his bike into a bus and wake up as the only dude in the world to remember the Beatles. Ker-ching! It’s a cracker of a concept, of course, and starts out well enough, as our hero finds that just knowing the songs themselves doesn’t bring instant fame in these brand-obsessed times. It’s here that the film shows some promise but soon it’s off, careening down that rusty old rom-com chute that Curtis keeps permanently greased.
The way this cops out on The Beatles quickly starts to grate; the only version of them relevant here is the safe as houses ‘Ob-la-di Ob-la-da’ one that Jimmy Tarbuck and Cilla Black used to cover on Live at the Palladium. Yes, The Beatles were that, but they also had sharp edges; you see ‘Revolution’ and ‘Helter Skelter’ written on post-it notes on Jack’s memory wall, but you know he’ll never play them. A rooftop concert by our time-sick troubadour that cries out for an incendiary and completely narratively appropriate version of ‘Get Back’ pointedly fumbles the pass. Still, if Paul McCartney singing ‘Hey Jude’ for the umpteenth time is your idea of heaven, this is for you.
Ed Sheeran fans will also be pleased because he’s in it a lot, and to be fair to the ginger pestilence, while he’s no actor, he’s miles better here than in Game of Thrones. There is one initially gob-smacking moment when Jack is dispatched to find an old musical hero who by all rights should be dead, but, this being a Curtis script, the opportunity to sprinkle some dramatic grit over proceedings and explore the SF dimension is thrown away in favour of the sort of mawkish man-hugging that would have had the real Lennon gagging on his popcorn.
By the third act, when the inevitable, schmaltzy confession of love in front of a lighters-aloft Wembley Stadium crowd is cranking the Curtis-meter to eleven, whatever edge Boyle tries to inject into Working Title’s pensionable boy-meets-girl formula (©The Tall Man, 1989) has been suffocated to death. The big reveal, when it comes, opens up an intriguing can of worms that Boyle and Curtis simply toss into the long grass in favour of a brain-dead dash for the finish line. If you’re hoping for some timey-wimey capital from the Twilight Zone conceit of all this, help yourself to some open-goal jokes about Harry Potter and Oasis and a lot of comedy Google searches.
In an age when character comedy has brilliantly come of age and left the Curtis model high and dry somewhere back in the late '90s, this tired mix of his usual tropes with a misguided attempt at sanctifying The Beatles into some sort of dewy-eyed Northern religion rings decidedly hollow. If you must gorge yourself to this soft-focus treacle, be prepared to have the White Album on constant repeat for a full week afterwards to get your insulin level out of danger.