In 2013 Richard Curtis wrote a magical realism meets romantic comedy film in ABOUT TIME, which was a lovely, surprisingly strong film, that really mined its premise (a kind of casual take on time travel affording one the chance to ‘perfect’ the key relationships in their life) well. YESTERDAY had a similar kind of magical realism meets romantic comedy premise – what if the whole world forgot The Beatles, you remembered, but your subsequent rising success put you at odds with the love of your life? The trouble is, that premise is so intriguing that the romance element feels kind of weightless next to it. The film being directed by Danny Boyle, a truly excellent director at times, should’ve sharpened things out, but unfortunately this is very much more a Curtis film than a Boyle one.
Oh, the film gets some good gags out of its changed world, and deploys its obligatory celebrity cameos fairly well…the ones of living celebrities anyway (there’s an astonishingly ill-judged and poorly-realised pivotal scene featuring a long-dead musician that throws the film off the rails towards the end). It’s sabotaged by its own premise, though. The mind constantly races at what you’d do if you were in a world that had forgotten not just The Beatles (the marketing wisely hid that several other things were forgotten in the film’s world), but the film is much more interested in a fairly rote will-they-won’t-they love story.
Said love story is brought to life fairly well by Lily James, who inhabits her character with a lot of life and considered mannerisms. Lead Himesh Patel doesn’t impress quite so much, but he meets the mettle for the frequent singing his role requires at any rate. The love story is so simple and tired that it feels very Curtis on autopilot, and Boyle doesn’t do enough directorial flourishes to make the film particularly interesting, let alone his own. What happened to the Boyle of STEVE JOBS and T2 TRAINSPOTTING?
Great premise, but lacking personality, and playing to the laziest impulses of its writer. Two and a half yellow submarines, and a trip to Liverpool.