sun 25/08/2019

Yesterday review - Beatlemania in a parallel universe | reviews, news & interviews

Yesterday review - Beatlemania in a parallel universe

Yesterday review - Beatlemania in a parallel universe

Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis deliver an irresistible magical mystery tour

Hey dude: Himesh Patel as Jack Malik

The price of fame and the value of artistic truth are among the topics probed in Danny Boyle’s irresistible comedy, a beguiling magical mystery tour of an upside-down world where The Beatles suddenly never existed. Richard Curtis’s screenplay features some of his characteristic trademarks, not least the protagonist’s slapstick sidekick Rocky the roadie, but it’s illuminated by his fascination with popular music and the emotional resonance it carries.

The premise (Jack Barth gets a credit for “story”) is that the entire world has suffered a mysterious power blackout for 12 seconds, and when the lights come back on there are a few things missing. Erased from the memory banks are Coca-Cola, cigarettes and Harry Potter. And The Beatles. And Oasis actually, though this doesn't seem to worry anybody much.

Meanwhile, singer-songwriter Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) has been trying to scrape a living in the local pubs and clubs of Suffolk, but his self-belief is wearing thin. Even when his manager Ellie (Lily James) gets him a gig at the local Latitude Festival, he finds himself playing to a handful of children and OAPS. It looks like the last straw when the blackout hits and he gets run over by a bus.

But when the recuperating Jack plays Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday” to his friends, he’s flabbergasted when they claim never to have heard of the song or The Beatles. Only he can remember pop’s most legendary band! He grabs his guitar and starts writing down their songs (pictured below, Patel with Lily James).It’s a preposterous but wonderful idea, and it showers both Malik and the filmmakers with gifts. Jack’s sudden transformation into a pop genius catches the ear of Ed Sheeran (a Suffolk boy himself), and when Sheeran challenges him to an on-the-spot songwriting competition, Jack coolly wheels out Beatle classic “The Long and Winding Road”. “You’re definitely Mozart and I’m definitely Salieri,” says Ed philosophically.

But while Jack’s instant catalogue of pop masterpieces makes him an international sensation, the fact that he’s a musical imposter gnaws at him, and his unearned stardom is demolishing everything he previously held dear. When he performs “Help!” onstage, its title is all too real.

EastEnders veteran Patel plays Jack with a convincing mix of sincerity, confusion and incredulity, while Lily James, who's in danger of becoming typecast as The Sweetest Girl in the World, is so adorable it hurts. In contrast, Kate McKinnon has huge fun as Jack’s monstrous new American handler, Debra Hammer. The biggest surprise is Sheeran, whose deadpan portrayal of himself brings just the ballast the story needs, since the nerdy Sheeran’s rise to superstardom is only slightly less incredible than the Jack Malik story. And for that matter, maybe no Beatles would have meant no Sheeran.

This movie will put a spring in your step and possibly a tear in your eye.

The biggest surprise is Sheeran, whose deadpan portrayal of himself brings the ballast the story needs

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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Comments

What a pity Adam Sweeting felt it necessary to include his final par in his otherwise warm and generous review. ‘That’ moment drew an audible gasp from the audience, including myself. Thankfully I had not read Adam’s review before I saw the film so the emotional impact of that scene was untarnished. Please Adam, no spoilers, ok?

Thanks Roger. Perhaps you're right – I've de-spoilerised it.

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