WHAT I LIKED: Richard Curtis seems to get a bad wrap these days for making overly safe and light-hearted romance films about anxsty, white, middle-class members of the opposite sex, but in my opinion the results are generally very successful as there's always bags of genuine humour, a real devotion to developing characters properly, and more-often-than-not a neat thematic message behind the whole thing. The fact that 'Yesterday' twins his great writing with one of Britain's most famous directors (Danny Boyle) in service of a great concept about a musician waking up as the only person in the world who remembers The Beatles all had me very excited.
The final result however is a massive disappointment, but that's not to say that there aren't things here that work. The well-performed Beatles soundtrack naturally keeps things bobbing along and there's the odd chuckle to be had, but most of all what Curtis does do right here is work his magic developing the lead, as Himesh Patel's central musician character is given enough smart insight and personality-revealing lines so that we can begin to get under his skin and care about him as fame turns his humble little world upside down.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: The main problem is however that whilst the concept is neat, the narrative's execution is strangely messy - and in fact there seems to be no reasoning or drive behind the main plot-device at all other than it being something to play with. Indeed, (unlike the comparable time-travel concept in Curtis' brilliant About Time) the high-concept Beatles thing initially seems to be a device to test the central romance, but then we quickly lose all sight or memory of that as the pair are apart and it begins to become more of a flippant commentary on how the music industry has changed since The Beatle's were around. There's some laughs to be had there, but then the thematic through-line ends up being more about how love trumps all and how what Patel's character really wants is to live the simple life with his girl (Lily James). That's hardly a surprising conclusion in a Richard Curtis film, but the message ultimately feels tagged-on - mainly because the narrative pulls its focus away from said central romance so much that it doesn't feel earned. Equally that may have been less of an issue if it was well-developed in the first place, but sadly the weak-link in that department here appears to be Lily James, who (despite being great in so many other roles) can't seem to work with the light-hearted script or build a chemistry with Patel at all.
So, in the end Yesterday is a failiure because its high-concept narrative never really finds what its about, but it would have probably found that more easily if the central romance felt more tangible. It's hard to know who to blame for that in a production packed with so much talent, but in the end it makes for a film that feels awkward, messy and barely engaging. That's not helped by the number of hideous montages filled with text and emojis (what were you thinking Danny Boyle?) or the horrible celebrity cameos either, so in the end you've got yourself what is probably the biggest disappointment of the year so far. It just goes to show that great talent doesn't always guarantee a great film.
VERDICT: 'Yesterday' pulls together the great Richard Curtis and Danny Boyle in a film with a great central concept, but sadly the narrative never truly finds its groove. It's an awkward film this, and it is quite possibly the biggest disappointment of the year so far.