Danny Boyle’s “Yesterday” is a delight almost to the end. How can it not be? First of all, perfect pitch by both Himesh Patel (Jack) and the too-lovely-for-words Lily James (Ellie). Patel is Jack Malik, a store employee who, through a blackout on earth and being hit by a bus, wakes up in an alternate world where he is the one and only person who knows the Beatles. A third-rate musician who kind of strums a guitar to accompany the very so-so songs he writes, he is thrown almost accidentally into the role of an impostor who starts performing all of the Beatles songs, to immediate acclaim. Then, the rags-to-riches story of a nobody turned overnight into the most famous star in the world flows along well-known lines with nary a hitch, served by the expected secondary characters, the bum friend/hanger-on/faithful support staffer (Joel Fry), the tough, bitchy L.A. agent (Kate McKinnon), all taking their turn as seamlessly as in a Broadway production. And of course, there’s the Beatles’s music, some of the monstrously beautiful and creative ever written, so well performed by Patel that this critic had to double-check he did the actual singing.
Unfortunately, we’re rather brutally pulled out of these very enjoyable moments by a cloying last twenty minutes. In keeping with the story being told but not its mood, Boyle segues from the success story into romantic hogwash territory where Jack realizes that fame and riches aren’t worth a dime compared to the life he could live with Ellie and we are smothered in treacle as surely as we were enchanted with music and flow the minute before. Every cliché (the family with offspring visits a fun fair, a beach, etc.) is there, even an “I love-you, I love you too” exchange, I swear. Not that there’s anything wrong with resetting your priorities and understanding who the love of your life is, but the treatment here is embarrassingly maudlin.
Rather a letdown, but for everything that the movie is until it loses its way, “Yesterday” absolutely deserves to be seen and much enjoyed.