Yesterday Cert: 12A, 1hr 56mins
As Paul McCartney once famously warbled: ‘Oh, I believe in yesterday.’ But the problem with the much-anticipated new film that takes its title from his 1965 song is the exact opposite: I don’t believe in Yesterday.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve no problem with the film’s rather silly ‘high concept’. If I can believe in a world where dinosaurs are brought back to life and television weathermen live the same day over and over again, I can certainly believe in a world where The Beatles never existed.
At least, for a couple of hours in a darkened cinema.
The central character is failing Suffolk singer-songwriter Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) who is knocked off his bike by a bus during a strange 12-second power cut
No, my problem with Yesterday – directed by Danny Boyle and written by Richard Curtis – is what happens within that central idea. I didn’t believe in the main character played by former EastEnder Himesh Patel – and I certainly didn’t believe in that vital ingredient for just about any Curtis film, the central love story.
And together, that’s not a good start, even for a film that has ‘lightweight, summertime fun, please-don’t-take-me-too-seriously’ written all over it.
Part of the problem is the sheer weight of anticipation. Between them, Curtis and Boyle have been responsible for some of the most successful and best-loved British films of the past 30 years, with Curtis providing the screenplays for Four Weddings And A Funeral, Notting Hill and Love Actually, while Boyle’s directorial triumphs include Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and Slumdog Millionaire.
Jack (above) is now the only person in the entire world who remembers The Beatles and their songs. A commercial goldmine awaits… if only he can remember the words
But with both men now in their 60s and collaborating for the first time, there is little sign of the brilliantly original voices that each – in their very different, chalk-and-cheese ways – once brought to British cinema.
Seemingly stripped of his hallmark kinetic energy, Boyle is reduced to scribbling colourful pop-art captions on to the screen, in some sort of sad distant echo of Trainspotting, while Curtis plunders his own back catalogue – and The Boat That Rocked and About Time in particular – for inspiration.
The result is distinctly underwhelming, but not a disaster, given that it obviously features a lot of great Beatles songs, has some genuinely funny lines and involves an extended but respectable cameo from Ed Sheeran.
Fame, fortune and Ed Sheeran all lie ahead, while Jack – who, being the hero of a Curtis film, is a good guy at heart – wrestles with the guilt of passing off the Fab Four’s work as his own
I think it’s important to note that neither of the surviving Beatles – Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Ringo Starr – makes an obvious appearance.
In a film that, if nothing else, will certainly put Lowestoft on the map, the central character is failing Suffolk singer-songwriter Jack Malik (Patel) who – at a particularly dark moment in his career – is knocked off his bike by a bus during a strange 12-second power cut that plunges the whole world into darkness.
Recovering in hospital, he asks his devotedly concerned and very pretty manager – played by Lily James – ‘Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?’
While recovering in hospital, Jack asks his devotedly concerned and very pretty manager – played by Lily James (above) – ‘Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?’
She looks at him blankly: ‘Why 64?’ It slowly turns out Jack is now the only person in the entire world who remembers The Beatles and their songs. It’s as if they never existed. A commercial goldmine awaits… if only he can remember the words.
Fame, fortune and Ed Sheeran all lie ahead, while Jack – who, being the hero of a Curtis film, is a good guy at heart – wrestles with the guilt of passing off the Fab Four’s work as his own.
In recent years, Curtis’s films have been criticised for being relentlessly white and upper-middle-class.
Here, it’s noticeable that the central character is British-Asian (casting Patel was reportedly Boyle’s idea), that his parents – played by real-life husband and wife Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal – have a modest home, and that Jack’s disaster-prone sidekick and roadie is played by the black actor Joel Fry.
IT’S A FACT
John Lennon met Paul McCartney at the un-rock ‘n’ roll garden fete at St Peter’s Church, Woolton, Liverpool, in 1957.
Neither man, however, seems to have realised what a two-dimensional pig of a part Curtis has written for poor James, who has little to do but dote in a doe-eyed sort of way and doesn’t even do that with much conviction.
Nor do they seem to have realised that the screen chemistry needed between Patel and James – so vital if this sort of film is to fly – isn’t there.
There are some very funny lines, which I don’t intend to spoil, and some gently touching moments, but elsewhere there are jokes that fall flat and a wickedly overlong running time.
In short, it’s well short of a classic but, hey (Jude, or even Dude, as Sheeran suggests), it’s Curtis, Boyle and The Beatles and, helped by this spectacularly damp summer, the long and winding road to box-office success surely beckons.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
Apollo 11 (U)
You wouldn’t think that after the success of First Man last year there would be much mileage in another detailed account of the Apollo 11 mission to put the first man on the Moon.
But it is the 50th anniversary next month and Todd Douglas Miller’s documentary is extraordinarily good.
Most of us will feel familiar with the story, but you’ve never seen it like this. There’s none of the grainy black-and-white TV footage you might be expecting, just 90 minutes of immaculately restored colour archive film that’s so good you half wonder whether it’s been faked.
There’s no explanatory commentary and no contributions from surviving participants. Instead, the story of the eight-day mission is told in brilliantly edited chronological order, against a stunningly well-mixed soundtrack of mission communications that gets the hairs on the back of your neck prickling.
Houston, we definitely don’t have a problem. Fabulous.
In Fabric (15)
Well, they certainly don’t make films like this any more, with director Peter Strickland paying homage to the weird psychological horror-chillers that were pumped out by British film and TV studios in the sex-obsessed Seventies.
More than once TV’s Tales Of The Unexpected comes to mind, as we watch recently divorced Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) explore the world of lonely-hearts dating with the help of a new red dress bought from the sort of exotic shop assistant that would have most shoppers fleeing for the hills.
Turns out it’s the dress Sheila should be worrying about, in a deliciously put-together film that turns out to be way too long.
Robert The Bruce (15)
Mel Gibson grabbed the headlines for his performance as William Wallace in Braveheart, but prominent among the supporting cast was Angus Macfadyen as Robert the Bruce.
Mel Gibson grabbed the headlines for his performance as William Wallace in Braveheart, but prominent among the supporting cast was Angus Macfadyen (above) as Robert the Bruce
It was clearly an experience that stayed with the actor as, 24 years later, he’s back not just playing ‘the Bruce’ again but co-writing the screenplay too. Despite being shot in snowy Montana, this has an authentic feel, as we watch an exhausted Bruce battling injury, betrayal and pre-Bannockburn existential angst.
Likely to appeal most to those with a decent knowledge of Scottish history and a love of cave-dwelling spiders, of course.
Support The Girls (15)
Regina Hall (above right, with Haley Lu Richardson) gives it her best shot as Lisa, the bar’s manager, whose optimism, empathy and faith in human nature will be tested to their limit
Thankfully, we don’t have bars like Double Whammies in this country, robbing this very American tale about underdressed waitresses of some of its relevance. Still, Regina Hall gives it her best shot as Lisa, the bar’s manager, whose optimism, empathy and faith in human nature will be tested to their limit as she endures a very bad day at the office.