Danny Boyle's Beatles-flavoured Yesterday missing that 'twist and shout' factor

Damon Smith reviews Danny Boyle's quirky romantic comedy Yesterday, which stars Himesh Patel as a singer-songwriter who realises he's the only person left on Earth who remembers The Beatles

Himesh Patel as Jack Malik and Ed Sheeran as himself in Yesterday
Damon Smith

YESTERDAY (12A, 116 mins) Romance/Comedy/Fantasy/Musical/Sci-Fi. Himesh Patel, Lily James, Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran, Joel Fry, Alexander Arnold, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Meera Syal, Ellise Chappell, Harry Michell. Director: Danny Boyle.

DO YOU want to know a secret? I'm a sucker for a sweet, heartfelt romantic comedy and, since Four Weddings And A Funeral in 1994, screenwriter Richard Curtis has been a taste of honey with beautifully judged stories of amour fou across the class divide.

Yesterday, directed by Danny Boyle, should continue that winning streak, casting Himesh Patel and Lily James as best friends whose paths diverge after a nasty bout of pop culture amnesia ripples across the universe, erasing all memory of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

I don't want to spoil the party but this is probably my least favourite Curtis script.

I will admit, there are a couple of gorgeous, heart-tugging scenes that did genuinely please, please me including a farewell at a train station that culminates in James' schoolteacher lamenting, "I've wasted half of my life waiting for you to love me".

Ed Sheeran also has a blast in a colourful supporting role – let it be known, the chart-topping musician can gleefully poke fun at himself – but you can see the heavy-lifting on screen from gifted co-stars Kate McKinnon and Joel Fry.

Struggling singer-songwriter Jack Malik (Patel) is barely one step down the long and winding road to success with his childhood friend and manager, Ellie (James).

After a hard day's night of gigging to almost no reply, Jack cycles home to his parents (Sanjeev Bhaskar, Meera Syal) in Clacton-on-Sea and collides with a bus during a 12-second blackout.

When he emerges from his golden slumbers in hospital, Jack discovers that no one – except for him – remembers The Beatles.

He tries to act naturally as he performs a rendition of Yesterday for Ellie and pals Lucy (Ellise Chappell), Nick (Harry Michell) and Rocky (Fry).

They fail to dig it and it's all too much for Jack.

"It's one of the greatest songs ever written!" he gushes like a little child.

With a little help from his friends, Jack becomes a viral sensation by passing off The Beatles' back catalogue as his words of love.

Jack says hello, goodbye to anonymity after cutthroat American agent Debra Hammer (McKinnon) offers him a ticket to ride the helter skelter to global superstardom.

Ed Sheeran becomes a mentor – "You're Mozart, I'm Salieri!" – as Jack inspires fans to come together behind him as the face of a rock and roll music revolution here, there and everywhere.

Every little thing Jack does takes him further away from Ellie.

He eventually realises that there's a place for him back in Clacton-on-Sea and he needs to get back to the girl, who believed in him when he was a nowhere man.

I want to tell you that Yesterday is a feel-good chart-topping hit, but something is missing that would make me want to feverishly twist and shout from the rooftops about director Boyle's picture.

Oddly, I wasn't sufficiently invested in Jack any time at all to make me root for him on his magical mystery tour to secondhand fame and fortune.

Still, I've got a feeling that fans of Curtis' other films including Love Actually and Notting Hill will turn out in droves regardless of its many faults.

Rating: 6/10

Released: June 28

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