CamdenNewJournal

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Macca ’n’ cheese in Yesterday

28 June, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Himesh Patel in Yesterday

YESTERDAY
Directed by Danny Boyle
Certificate 12a
☆☆☆

RICHARD Curtis’s films have created a national image that sells well in the American film market, and for its British viewers allows a brief daydream of an alternative universe of how we could or might be if we were a nation dreamed up by biscuit-tin designers.

But it never ceases to amaze me that the population in a Curtis Britain hasn’t completely crashed and there is nobody left here at all: in his world, anyone who has the hots for someone else instantly decides that it is far too embarrassing to express such a sentiment and life is much easier if we swallow our words, look at our feet and mumble incoherently while slowly stepping away from the object of our affections.

In this Danny Boyle-directed effort, we have two leads who from the get-go should strip naked and snog. It would save us a whole load of bother.

Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is a singer/songwriter haunting the busking spots of Lowestoft, a place with that peculiarly desolate English seaside air about it, and a handy metaphor for where his non-existent musical career is heading.

His “manager” is Ellie (Lily James), a secondary school maths teacher and his best mate, who has always believed he has something special. But after yet another disappointing gig, he decides to call it quits.

As so often in a film with Boyle at the helm, something fantastical happens – a key ingredient to Boyle’s storytelling, such twists are part of his cinematic magic, and helps plump up the pillows on this otherwise disappointingly standardised romcom.

That fantastical something is a solar flare knocking out the world’s electrical supplies for 12 seconds – and during that time the world spins off on a weird axis in which cigarettes, Coca-Cola and The Beatles have simply ceased to exist.

In the brief blackout, Jack is hit by a bus, sent flying off his bike, and when he comes round discovers that he can now lay claim to every tune Lennon and McCartney wrote… an intriguing idea that then, disappointingly, leads us down a predictable story path. A supporting cast that includes Ed Sheeran, Meera Syal, James Corden and Sanjeev Bhaskar helps, as do the odd joke playing on Beatle lyrics that land.

But Yesterday is as cheesy as Curtis-written tales can be, is inhabited by clichéd stock-in-trade characters from the LA music exec to the bumbling gang of mates from the Four Weddings playbook.

Thankfully, Patel is endearing, and best of all it is littered with snippets of Beatles tunes – which will remind you of the sheer joy of their music.

You’ll want to dig out your Beatles LPs after watching this and give sigh a relief that yes, the Fab Four did exist.

That, in itself, makes Yesterday worthwhile.

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