Nantucket Film Review: Danny Boyle’s ‘Yesterday’ Will Leave You Smiling

Danny Boyle's ode to the Beatles is a genuine feel-good film

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Nantucket Film Festival: The Nantucket Film Festival kicked off Wednesday, June 19 with a slate of alluring feature films, short films, and documentaries, including “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am” – which we will be seen Thursday morning. The Opening Family Film Centerpiece was Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story 4,” directed by Josh Cooley (his feature film directorial debut) and starring the regulars from the franchise, including Tom Hanks and Tim Allen. A few stars that are new to the “Toy Story” saga include Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Christina Hendricks, and Keanu Reeves. We were still in transit while the film played, but you can read our review today.

We were able to get to the festival in time for the Opening Night selection, Academy Award-winner Danny Boyle’s “Yesterday.” Executive Director Mystelle Brabbée and Film Program Director Basil Tsiokos – both of whom we spoke with last week – introduced the film to a packed house. Brabbée started with words of gratitude for all the people that helped make the festival happen. From high-end sponsors like Showtime and The Writers Guild of America, to the volunteers manning the ticket booths, she expressed her gratefulness in earnest. Brabbée spoke about the upcoming events that she hoped most would catch at the festival before Tsiokos followed with a preview of the films selected. As he introduced “Yesterday,” Tsiokos explained to the audience that they wanted to kick off the festival with a film that was “vibrant, light, and fun.”

Academy Award-nominee Richard Curtis (“Four Weddings and a Funeral”) adapted the screenplay from a story both he and Jack Barth wrote. Himesh Patel stars in his feature film debut as Jack Malik, a singer/songwriter in the English town of Suffolk who is struggling to make a career of his passion. Just as he is about to give up hope, his manager, Ellie Appleton (Lily James), lands him a small stage gig at the Latitude Music Festival. The gig is a massive disappointment and realizing that this just isn’t going to happen for him, Jack decides to hang up his guitar for good. Ellie tries to persuade him from giving up hope, as she clearly sees Jack as more than just a friend, despite him being completely oblivious to her feelings.

While Jack is biking home after the concert, the entire world experiences a colossal power outage that lasts all of 12 seconds. In that brief period in darkness, Jack manages to get hit by a bus and ends up hospitalized. When Jack recovers, Ellie and their friends have purchased him a guitar to replace the one smashed in the accident. When they ask him to play a song on it, Jack plays The Beatles’ hit, “Yesterday.” Jack’s friends are blown away by the song, and to his astonishment, finds that they have never heard it before. Nor have they heard of The Beatles. Jack assumes they are putting him on, but slowly begins to discover that something magical happened in that 12 seconds, eliminating the music of the iconic band, along with other everyday items like Coca-cola and cigarettes.

Jack sees the opportunity in front of him to cease everything he ever wanted in a musical career, and thus begins playing the forgotten tunes as his own. He records an album with the help of Ellie, and starts handing it out at the wholesale warehouse he works at by day. Following a stint on a local news show, musician Ed Sheeran reaches out to Jack, offering him the opportunity for the unknown singer to open for the Grammy-winning singer. This, of course, leads Jack to the verge of stardom.

As he tours with Sheeran, Jack is recruited by the pop star’s manager, Debra Hammer (Kate McKinnon), who sees Jack’s as a potential cash cow. Things take a twist as two people hear Jack’s music, but seem to know it is not his own. As fame and success circle Jack like sharks in the water, Jack begins to struggle with the lies he is telling, as well as his newfound feelings for Ellie.

Danny Boyle’s imaginative and hilarious “Yesterday” is an absolute crowd-pleaser from start to finish. For anyone who has struggled to stand out in their craft, the film poses a very enticing parable that should make audiences question what they would do in a similar situation. In this regard, Boyle shows that if you can’t do the thing you love, then, like Stephen Stills once said, love the one you’re with.

Patel and James make a charming pair, but it is the supporting cast that really keeps the film rolling. From McKinnon’s fire-breathing, greedy-eyed maniacal take, to the consistent comic relief that Jack’s parents provide (Meera Syal and Sanjeev Bhaskar), “Yesterday” put a giant smile on our face for the better part of its hour and 56-minute run time. It is an outright feel-good movie that left the audience lingering to discuss their excitement following the end credits.

Curtis’ script manifests relatable characters, drawing its audience into caring about Jack’s decisions while never disguising the fantasy film as anything else. While at times a tad hackneyed and a bit over-romanticized, there is something utterly delightful and warm in the premise that makes the ups and downs of the film forgivable. “Yesterday” will leave you with a full heart and a beaming face, and who couldn’t use that feeling every once in a while?

“Yesterday” is distributed by Universal Pictures and opens in theaters nationwide on June 28.

GRADE: (★)

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