Thursday, 20 June 2019

FILM REVIEW: Yesterday - HOME, Manchester.

It’s difficult to imagine a world in which iconic pop supergroup The Beatles never came to be. This is the reality Jake Malik (Himesh Patel) finds himself in after a freak global glitch erases the Fab Four – and their extensive discography – from existence. Jake is a struggling singer-songwriter on the brink of throwing in the towel, but this new revelation provides a flash of inspiration that promises to shoot him to instant stardom.

Writer Richard Curtis (Love Actually, About Time) and director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) join forces in what, at first glance, seems an unlikely project for Boyle. The two combine well, however, to generate a well-paced, entertaining and, at times, poignant film.

The undercurrent to Jake’s skyrocketing pop career is a story of unrequited love – the sort we’ve come to expect from a Curtis rom-com – with elements of the usual tedious dance between a couple who are clearly perfect for each other, but take forever to realise it. The unfortunate role of misty-eyed lover fell to Lily James, who put in a charming performance as Jake’s first manager and childhood friend, Ellie. Her character lacked any real spice, seemingly happy to put aside her own needs whilst Jake systematically ignored her (painfully obvious) affections. James gives it her level best though, and the two do share a genuine chemistry on screen which somewhat makes up for the tired character dynamic.

Himesh Patel brings real soul and honesty to his leading role. In a Q&A session after the HOME preview, director Boyle described Patel’s approach to the Beatles hits as simplistic, yet displaying the rare ability to make it seem as if they were his all along. This certainly isn’t unfounded – he’s truly engaging throughout, a skilled musician and incredible singer, morphing between modest warehouse employee and overnight rockstar with believable psychological strain. Other notable performances include comedy powerhouse duo Meera Syal and Sanjeev Bhaskar as Jake’s parents – they serve up several hilarious moments – and Kate McKinnon as Jake’s unlikeable, yet caricaturishly entertaining LA manager. Notable also is the very funny Joel Fry as Jake’s roadie, and, of course, the extended cameo from Ed Sheeran (any eye-rolling on my part was quelled on realising that he’s actually gamely sending himself up here.).

Overall, Boyle’s snappy, visually engaging direction brings a much-needed energy to this romantic comedy with a message. A sweet summer crowd-pleaser.

Reviewer - Sophie Toland
on - 19/6/19

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