When going in to a movie, it’s important to keep in mind that it may have different intentions than what you are expecting. Yesterday was advertised as a high-concept movie that would comment on culture and deliver a mind-blowing story. But as it turns out, that isn’t at all what the movie was interested in exploring. It wanted to comment on honesty and how it brings about happiness.
So if you’re going in to Yesterday expecting it to explore its immensely intriguing premise of, “What if The Beatles never became The Beatles?” then you will likely be disappointed. But if you’re willing to put your expectations to the side, there is a good chance you will end up enjoying this movie.
I put this film in a similar camp to Field of Dreams or About Time. These movies all have very fantastical elements, but they use them as a vehicle to say something about their characters and about life. The point isn’t the mythology behind the voice Ray hears, time travel, or why The Beatles, Coca Cola, and cigarettes don’t exist anymore. It’s about the lessons we can learn from the people in these situations.
What we end up getting with Yesterday, though, is a mixed bag. Its highs are as high as the peak of The Beatles’ popularity, and its lows are as low as the band’s morale after a run in with Yoko Ono. But much like the band, the highs are high enough to make the movie very enjoyable overall.
This movie is a romantic comedy – that’s what it wants to be, and that’s how it functions. Its genre is both a strength and a weakness. It does a great job of establishing the main relationship, but at the same time, it falls into a couple of specific frustrating tropes. If it was able to execute what it was trying to do more than it actually does, it would go up much higher in quality.
It does have a message that it is trying to send – be honest in your work, because successfulness doesn’t equal happiness; doing what you want to in life and living it to the fullest does. This is deceivingly deep. It is certainly important, but when it has the chance to go further than it does, it should have gone further.
It’s a real shame that this film doesn’t take the scary dive down to the bottom of the pool of possibilities. Instead, it stays in the shallow end where everything is fun and simple. Overall, though, it is a thoroughly entertaining film. The film flies by and taps right into Beatles nostalgia. It brings enough joy and heart to the table to justify staying in the shallow end and makes for an enjoyable movie that will have you playing The Beatles on repeat for the rest of the weekend. I’m speaking from experience.