There's a lot that’s mind-bendingly corny about Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis’s Yesterday, a “what-if?” musical comedy that imagines a world in which The Beatles never existed. Your ability to spend time in its big-hearted, dad-joke world might lie with your tolerance for Ed Sheeran making fun of himself – if you can cope with those sort of inventions along with the film’s hit-and-miss gag rate and its happy-clappy view of modern Britain, then its endless sugar rush of Beatles covers and endearing performances make it hard not to like.

The film centre’s around Jack (Himesh Patel, a real discovery), a struggling 27-year-old singer-songwriter sick of playing to thin crowds. The years of musical irrelevance end when there’s an electricity blackout across the globe, a jolt from the storytelling powers that be so absurd that you go with it. Jack is knocked off his bicycle and wakes in hospital to the realisation that not a single other soul in the world knows who the Beatles are.

The most powerful moment in this energetic, fun film comes when Jack leaves hospital and strums Yesterday to his friends. Boyle gives us shots of strangers going about their business and we feel the universal power of a brilliant song. Not every Beatles tune we hear lands with such power. Jack becomes a global star: the trick of The Truman Show is inverted, and Jack is the only person in on the joke. A more satirical, challenging film would spin this whole premise in loopier, more testing directions.

Would Ed Sheeran even exist if there were no Beatles? Does this movie not oddly suggest that the Beatles were irrelevant: not so influential after all, considering all we lack is their songs and nothing of the culture they inspired?

Yesterday doesn’t dig this deep. It’s a silly jukebox movie, with only brief hints of something darker when Jack begins to regret allowing his lie to run away with him. It’s the music that carries it, though. How can you resist such a playful celebration of some of the best songs ever recorded? You can’t.

A Beatles musical with a quirky plot

It’s all about the music, man

Danny Boyle

June 27 (Rating TBC)

By Dave Calhoun | 01 Jul 2019


DirectorDanny Boyle
CastingHimesh Patel, Lily James, Sophia Di Martino