The simple yet bizarre synopsis of Danny Boyle’s new film is deceptive in what it has to offer. Jack, a struggling musician who realises that no one has heard of The Beatles but him is certainly a quirky hook to draw in viewers. On the surface this premise seems like it will be a shallow comedy. Which it is at times, but this is Danny Boyle. There must be more  to it, and there certainly is.

Yesterday features a script that varies in quality: at times it is quick-witted and funny, albeit in a generic way, but it puts a smile on your face. In other instances however it can be extremely excessive and lacking in nuance.

As Jack navigates the wonderfully weird world that features a few other oddities, he looks permanently confused. And it this look that provide the funniest moments, coming thick and fast from his friends who are relentless in their teasing.

When he plays a Beatles tune, they love it and ask when he wrote it. Waving off any compliments, his friends look at him, confused, not knowing what he is talking about.

‘The Beatles’?! Of course they are oblivious to the band’s genius and can’t help but laugh at the admittedly odd band name. Jack soon searches for ‘The Beatles’, only to find a wikipedia-like entry of a literal beetle. In shock, he tries different search strings only to find the same picture.

Indeed, it is a rather shallow set-up for a comedy revolving around this alternate reality that Jack needs to swallow. However, Yesterday has plenty of meat on its bones. Despite it being an amusingly ridiculous premise, Boyle uses Jack for more than laughs. Ready to quit after playing at children’s birthday parties among other amusing ‘venues’, it is clear that a point is being made about how music is seen in modern world, made obvious when he attempts to play a song to his parents who treat it as important as a television soap.

Incredibly exaggerated, this scene nails home the unfortunate point that, for many people in the world today, music is simply something to play in the background while working or chatting over a cup of tea. This isn’t to say that it is a negative character trait, but unlike decades past, music has inarguably devolved from a respected art-form to a capitalist based industry where image is more important than quality tunes.

This is where the concept of no one knowing of the The Beatles makes perfect sense, given the true love and admiration for The Beatles that no other band has ever come close to. When Jack makes his mark and becomes a part of the music industry, this concept is further explored, though again in an unfortunate exaggerated fashion.

Also hyperbolic, and shoehorned into the film, is a romantic sub-plot that is amazingly predictable and entirely unneeded. Given this and the humour-free exploration into the perception of music in the 21st century, it is far from surprising that second half of the film loses most of the laughs.

Ed Sheeran makes an appearance, and while a love or hate musician, it makes perfect sense for him to play a small role as there is nothing else to describe Sheeran’s music other than pop, and Jack is heading further towards this stain of a music genre and the absurd obligations that surround it. 

Yesterday is a fantastically overblown depiction of how the industry has changed for the worse, while in contrast the film never loses sight of its seemingly silly premise that in reality makes perfect sense. Boyle certainly overdoes many scenes with a complete lack of subtlety, but it works… to some extent. What stings a little is that we all know that Boyle can certainly do better.



9 Comments on “YESTERDAY [2019]

  1. Yeah man reviews for this one have been all over the place. Not sure what to think yet. I think I will check it out even if I’m not a Beatles champion over here. (To be clear I appreciate them and their place in music history, I”m just not a learn-the-lyrics kind of fan haha.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have gone into their discography tbh. I probably should given I’m a music fanatic with 1TB of music on my PC, and love early Pink Floyd – Syd Barret apparently loved them and cited them as an early influence. That and some of their stuff was almost certainly written on LSD. Have you heard the Bill Hicks joke about that?

      ‘C’mon, a YELLOW SUBMARINE? you’re telling me they weren’t tripping? They were so high they let Ringo sing a tune!’

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When I saw the trailer for this I rolled my eyes. It just seemed like an incredibly complex premise to pull off. Sounds like Boyle did about as well as I thought he could. I’ll see it eventually, but I’m in no rush.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really think it has gone over a lot of folks’ heads. I know that is an elitist thing to say, but I’m a musician and music obsessionist, and I really think that admiration of the beatles compared to what pop music is today is the perfect way to make the statement Boyle is getting across. Problem was that he is as subtle as a hammer through glass about it all.


    • Aww, bitter? It wasn’t THAT bad haha, funnily enough tho I would have given it a similar score to you, but for totally different reasons!

      BTW I’m finally gonna check out one of your indie gems tonight – Little Woods. I’m looking forward to it!


    • It certainly wuoldn’t be for everyone. But I think its commentary, while completely lacking in nuance, was spot on. That’s why I thought the premise was perfect, the contrast between the joke of the music industry now vs the most loved band in existence. It just made me think about how music used to be a legitimate career whereas now you have a one in a million shot of ‘making it’, and if it isn’t pop music then forget about it. Even back in the 90’s you had bands like Nirvana, Tool and RATM in the mainstream. Wu Tang as well, love em or hate em hehe


  3. Pieces together my review of this after seeing it over the weekend. It’s a weird one for sure but it has its charms.


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