The film ends up dealing with destiny and the inexorable passage of time
Someone like Richard Curtis, the man who gave us two of the finest romantic comedies to date; Love Actually and About Time, announced that he would set aside direction to focus on his work as a screenwriter being that there are so many morons who think they’re Orson Welles when they barely scrape by as an Ed Wood can only come as terrible news to those of us still capable of getting excited about all matters related to that thing called love.
That’s why today we are forced to settle for crumbs in the form of scripts in which to shape their consolidated style of understanding comedy, not just romantic. But if that script is also based on a premise as powerful as the possibility that the Beatles had never existed, except for one person, who just happens to be a musician, who’d be the only person alive who knew their music with all the power that would entail, the hype would raise to unfathomable limits. The question is: is the above hype capable of eclipsing the subsequent development of the film? Let’s not fool ourselves: the answer is yes. But let’s take it bit by bit.
2006 saw the release in France of the movie, Jean-Phillippe, starring the always flawless Fabrice Luchini, which tells the story of an uncompromising Johnny Halliday fan who one day after receiving a blow to the back of the head, wakes up in a world in which the legendary singer of Souvenirs never actually made it big and ended up as the owner of a nightclub. So, in this way, there is some similarity between this film and Yesterday, which shows that everything is already invented.
But the Beatles are the Beatles, and their impact has been much greater on millions of people around the world. However the truth is that Curtis, and therefore, director Danny Boyle – who does good work here – cares more about how the aforementioned premise affects Jack’s emotional state (an accurate Himesh Patel) and especially his relationship with Ellie (an adorable Lily James) rather than the moral dilemma presented to the protagonist and a little exploited critical vision of the music industry embodied in the character of Kate McKinnon. Circumstances that take second fiddle, because, after all, this is a love story.
But oddly enough, and although it permeates the movie throughout, it isn’t until the final half-hour that the romantic plot takes the reins of a story that is approached from simplicity and avoiding the usual excesses typical of this genre, gradually conquering audiences. As usually happens in many of the films written by genius Curtis, this immaculate and flawless jewel Yesterday, this joyful celebration of legacy and feats achieved by The Fab Four from Liverpool, is impregnated with a certain sadness and ends up dealing with destiny and the inexorable passage of time. Again, the present tense, as was already happening in the wonderful and always highly undervalued About Time: a beach as a backdrop while discussing oblivion. Only here, it’s not Il Mondo playing. Basically because Curtis has long since had Il Mondo at his feet. Long live, Richard.
Blai Morell. Cinephil and critic. He works in Rac 1, QuèFem and Fotogramas.