It's difficult to know where to begin when it comes to the shortcomings of Yesterday, Danny Boyle's (Slumdog Millionaire) newest and a veritable marathon of problematic lessons and shitty behavior, but I'm gonna try. There will be spoilers, so consider yourself warned.
It is the present, and a young British singer-songwriter named Jack (newcomer Himesh Patel) slogs through the obstacles of whatever antiquated ideas he's somehow associated with "making it" in today's music industry—small crowds, disrespectful friends, not very good songs, irritating part-time jobs—y'know, basically being a musician. And all the while, nobody cares except his biggest fan and manager Ellie (Baby Driver's Lily James), a manic pixie dream girl type who has been hopelessly in love with Jack since high school (and who cites her "frizzy hair" as a possible reason that she hasn't been noticed because UGH). But of course, he's never noticed. Puke.
And then the electricity of the planet zaps out for 12 seconds for reasons never explained, and every non-Jack person on Earth forgets that The Beatles ever existed. At first Jack's weirded out, but then, as any rational person would do, he realizes he can capitalize on their objectively awesome catalog of songs and pass them off as his own. He does, gets famous and realizes he loved the girl all along—but uh-oh, she's developed self-respect just long enough to keep the drama going. In the end, she forgives him because of course she does because this movie is terrible.
Straight away, it's important to note that it's fun to hear slightly revised versions of The Beatles' well-worn songs, but from the moment Ed fucking Sheeran hits the screen, Yesterday descends into a dangerous mess of tired cinematic romance tropes, magic realism we don't even want to accept for the purposes of fun and other associated nonsensical aspects too boring to get into here. Instead, allow me to give you a little list of reasons to skip this movie altogether:
-Sheeran's portrayal of himself paints the "Shape of You" singer as a stunted man-child brimming with jealousy, narcissism and bad ideas. Instead of being funny, it seems too real. In other words, I completely believe the filmmakers that this is what he's like.
–SNL's Kate McKinnon as manager to Sheeran and eventually Jack is so lacking in dimension, even she is probably someplace cringing at the character's poor dialogue and utterly unfunny presence in the film.
-Patel may bring a quiet vulnerability to the role of Jack at first, but by the end of the film, as he's live-streaming his longtime friend and potential love partner's image onto a building-sized screen at Wembley Stadium without her consent during an ill-conceived grand public gesture—a friend who, by the way, has a fucking boyfriend who helped Jack record the pilfered songs in the first act FOR FUCKING FREE—it's clear he's a self-absorbed dick as bad as Sheeran, and that he learned literally nothing from The Beatles message of love (not counting songs like "Run For Your Life" because, frankly, The Beatles themselves were not so great in that regard, thank you very much) and who cares very little for how his actions affect those he supposedly cares about.
Thus, Yesterday reinforces dangerous messaging, particularly for young people who are here taught that pining nets results and that it's OK to hurt people you say you love so long as you then place them in very public and potentially humiliating situations. Also, James Corden is in this movie, and he's just the fucking worst. So instead, pop on your records and enjoy The Beatles if you wish—this thing's just gonna piss you off.
+Some Beatles songs are great
-Fucking Ed Sheeran; the message; the motive
Directed by Boyle
With Patel, James, McKinnon and Sheeran
Regal 14, Violet Crown, PG-13, 116 min.