Yesterday has a great premise, joining the ranks of a special division of romantic comedies that are blended with a sci-fi premise. South Koreans have perfected this delicate balance with films like The Beauty Inside and How Long Will I Love You, but there are plenty of American ones as well. There are those that deal with time travel (Hot Tub Time Machine) and time loops (Groundhog’s Day), ones that take place in the future (Her), alternate worlds unlike ours (The Lobster) and alternate worlds similar to our own (The Invention of Lying, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), but all of these films made full use of their premise. Yesterday has a great concept that it seems to abandon for the romantic elements, rather than having them work in tandem. Even worse, the message of the movie becomes contradictory in its need to provide a satisfying and moral resolution.
The basic premise of the film is fairly simple, albeit a bit pandering in places. A struggling singer/songwriter named Jack (Himesh Patel) is unable to get audiences interested in his music, despite the encouragement from his friend and manager, Ellie (Lily James). Having quit his job as a teacher to pursue music, Jack is at rock bottom when he badly crashes his bike during a freak worldwide blackout. When he comes to in the hospital, Jack discovers that the rest of the world has forgotten the music of The Beatles.
Actually, it isn’t as simple as everyone forgetting the music, because as the narrative unfolds we discover that it is as if the past has been changed and we now live in a world where John Lennon decided to have a simple life of happiness instead of pursuing dreams. Not only does this complicate the premise of the film, making the blackout result in an alternate reality altogether, but it also complicates the message of the film. While we are repeatedly told that the world is better off with Lennon’s music, the film also seems to encourage the shrugging off of dreams for a simple life, confirmed by the resolution to the premise as well. This feels somewhat contradictory, or at least a film better watched without too much analysis.
Besides the faulty logic of the film’s premise and themes, I found the film to be a bit obnoxious at points. This was mostly due to contrived moments, both comedic and emotional. Nearly every aspect of the film felt formulated by looking at past successful films, cramming humor where it doesn’t belong and supporting allowing actors to embellish their performances for laughs (Kate McKinnon is the worst offender, tonally belonging in a completely different movie) while the leads are forced into a bland romantic comedy predictable from the very beginning. Yesterday feels like several movies competing for the spotlight, with the hope that really good music will distract from these flaws. The music is good, but not that good.
Speaking of the music, this appears to be the only reason for an upgrade to 4K, as the visuals in this film don’t offer anything that demands brighter and more lifelike color. This has to be director Danny Boyle’s most visually unimpressive film, with none of the typical stylistic embellishments he seems to typically implement. This isn’t to say that the film demanded more style, but merely that this is not a film I would expect many require on 4K Ultra HD.
Along with the 4K disc, there is also a Blu-ray copy of the film along with a digital code to stream the film. Both the 4K and Blu-ray have the special features, with the 4K providing them in 4K resolution. These include an alternate ending, along with additional musical performances cut from the film. There are also featurettes about two of the cast members; Ed Sheeran who plays himself and McKinnon who practically eats the scenery in her inability to tone it down for a non-SNL character. Oddly, there are no featurettes for the film’s two stars, but there is another about the historic filming location of Abbey Road Studios. The highlight, however, is a director's commentary.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6.5/10
Historical Significance: 6/10
Special Features: 6/10