Poorly Covered: Our Review of ‘Yesterday’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - June 29, 2019
Poorly Covered: Our Review of ‘Yesterday’

Danny Boyle is prolific enough for critics and audiences to look for through lines within his work. Some say it’s his use of pop music. But for me, it’s the way he shows the relationship between individuals and the world where they live. He stimulates, if not overwhelms us, with visions of foreign landmarks and news casts in Yesterday. Momentarily, all of those flicker away. Just like everyone Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), a British musician, notices these lights. Then a bus hits him. And then he wakes up in a world where some things don’t exist. One of those things include a little rock band called The Beatles.

Yesterday has many flaws. But at least it has Boyle’s ability to competently incorporate the Beatles’ music within the film. Jack chooses to perform an acoustic Yesterday for his friends (Lily James, Joel Fry). The fact that the titular song isn’t, at first, too obvious for the scene is an excellent choice. His friends’ reactions add so many levels to the scene. They’re listening to a Beatles song for the first time. Many people probably don’t remember their first time hearing the band’s music. And they savor that little, beautiful moment. That’s until they’re convinced that he wrote the song instead of four people they’ve never heard of.

Jack’s friends finally convince him that they’ve never heard of the Beatles. None of the world has. So he takes it upon himself to educate the world of their music. He also decides to take the credit for writing those songs. It’s interesting to see the Beatles’ disappearance from the pop culture landscape. We can say the same about the optics of an alternate universe hailing Jack as a genius. That’s a rare title delegated to a brown man. That said, there’s a lot of erasure in depicting this alternate universe. The only musicians of color here, other than Jack of course, are Childish Gambino and Cardi B.

I also didn’t like how uneven this movie’s atmosphere is. There’s the occasional touches Boyle’s kaleidoscopic signature style. That doesn’t really fit with the rest of the film’s quaint British countryside tone. Boyle, along with screenwriter Richard Curtis, adds a third element into this. When Jack’s music career kicks off he meets the kind of people we’d expect in movies about musicians. Ed Sheeran (himself) shows up as well as music manager Debra Hammer (Kate McKinnon). The film portrays the latter as stereo-typically greedy, making this the first time I’ve disliked watching McKinnon. It’s just sad to see a film with good ideas sabotage itself with terrible execution.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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