The first albums my parents gave me were The Beatles' "Rubber Soul" and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." The Fab Four are in my DNA. That means I'm an easy mark for a movie chock-full of Beatles music. But "Yesterday" is a big missed opportunity.
The premise of this fantasy romance is, "imagine there's no Beatles" - a big idea the movie is not much interested in exploring.
Newcomer Himesh Patel stars as a struggling musician who gets hit by a bus during a power outage and wakes up to find The Beatles were never a thing and he's the only one who remembers. So he starts recording the music as his own and gets famous almost overnight with the help of a big name in the business (Ed Sheerhan who is very funny as Ed Sheerhan).
That's a wild Twilight Zone-type of premise, but the movie never goes beyond "Hey, these were great songs that would still be hits today!" It doesn't examine why these songs were meaningful and powerful or how the world would be different if the Beatles never got together - their impact on music, art, culture and politics. Patel's character doesn't even have any apparent connection the songs themselves. He's just pumping out the random ones he can remember all the words to with just "okay" renditions. Because this is a Richard Curtis screenplay - who wrote "Notting Hill" and "Love Actually" - this movie is more focused on a romance with Patel too dull to see his longtime manager and best friend Lily James is in love with him - until it's too late. James is luminescent - and the best thing about this movie, but I kept thinking she deserves better than this moderately talented dimwit liar.
The movie tries so hard to be cute and whimsical, but it's mostly obnoxious. And a surprise appearance near the end intended to have real emotional impact just felt gross to me. For so many songs full of life, purpose and meaning, they're stuck in a movie that's surprisingly sappy and empty.
EPPLER'S RATING: * *
* * * * * Incredible - One of the best of the year* * * * Excellent - Touches greatness with only minor quibbles* * * Good - Plenty to like, definitely worth seeing* * Mediocre - You can do better