What Critics Are Saying About Beatles-Inspired Movie ‘Yesterday’
When the Beatles-inspired musical Yesterday debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in May, it was greeted with a standing ovation. Not long afterward, a response came from those within the Beatles camp.
“We got a lovely message back from Ringo and Olivia, George’s widow," boasted director Danny Boyle. "I don’t think Paul has seen it, but he saw the trailer and said, ‘The trailer seems to work -- that’s a surprise!'”
Yesterday’s plot centers on Jack Malik, a struggling musician hoping for his big break. Following a freak power outage that leaves the world briefly in darkness, Jack discovers he is somehow the only person on Earth who remembers the Beatles. The singer becomes a superstar by claiming the band's songs as his ow. But fame is a double-edged sword and Jack’s celebrity status takes him away from Ellie, the woman he’s secretly loved for years.
In its review of Yesterday, the Chicago Tribune notes the movie “requires its viewers to take quite a few leaps of faith” when imagining a Beatles-less world. Vulture, pointing out that “a lot of good movies are born from dopey adolescent fantasies,” categorizes the story as “a good, dumb premise.”
Even Yesterday’s director has confessed difficulty in comprehending a culture bereft of the Beatles. “It’s impossible to imagine it actually,” Boyle explained during a conversation with Variety. “They changed the world, really. They were the first really to say, We want to concentrate on love and pleasure and music … we want to celebrate humanity. And they do that in a wonderful way.”
Despite the difficult-to-digest premise, USA Today claims that fans who suspend their disbelief and embrace the film will be in for a “mostly enjoyable stroll down Penny Lane.”
Newcomer Himesh Patel stars in Yesterday, with a standout performance that has earned a significant amount of praise. The Atlantic called his portrayal of Jack Malik “extremely charming,” while the Chicago Tribune labeled it a “star-making heartthrob turn.” “As Jack, Patel has an inviting, Everyman manner and lack of ego that make you want to root hard for him," USA Today proclaimed. "Plus, the dude can flat-out sing.”
Of course, any film that utilizes the Beatles catalog will earn its fair share of scrutiny. “The songs, to be fair, are iconic,” noted Variety in its review, criticizing Yesterday for featuring “nothing but the Beatles tracks that you would put on a '12 All-Time Greatest Songs of the Beatles!' collection.” The movie trade magazine went on to surmise that “the filmmakers reduce the Beatles to a kind of karaoke kitsch epiphany.”
Yesterday hits screens tomorrow, with early box-office estimates predicting the movie will pull in $10 million its opening weekend, roughly the same amount producers reportedly spent on acquiring the music right needed for the project. It faces stiff competition from the horror film Annabelle Comes Home, also in its first weekend, and the continuing success of Toy Story 4, which debuted last week.
Despite labeling Yesterday as “a rom-com wallpapered with the Beatles’ greatness,” Variety admitted the flick is still “cute and watchable.” The Chicago Tribune echoed those thoughts, noting that “even if this modern fairy tale doesn’t hold up on close inspection, Boyle does his best to make sure the ride is enjoyable.”