Well, yesterday’s whimsical post hardly merits as a ‘proper’ review so here goes with a few more thoughts.
During the late-seventies, my Dad had an 8-track deck fitted in our family car. It was second-hand and came with a selection of albums on 8-track: for those happily ignorant of it, the fotmat was a bulky plastic-cartridge monstrosity from the mid-sixties when it had become popular in cars, but hey, it beat listening to the radio. One of the albums that Dad had bought with the 8-track deck was The Beatles compilation, Love Songs, and this was, other than hearing isolated songs on the radio over the years, my first real experience of hearing the bands music. I remember that summer holiday in particular, very well, Dad driving the family to and around North Wales listening to that album over and over- some amazing songs on that compilation (considering how defintive a collection it was, it always seemed odd to me that it was discontinued in the early 1980s and never released, officially at least, on Compact Disc).
It would be many years later when I eventually bought all the Beatles albums on CD and became fully familiar with their music, but across all those albums, its those love songs, heard many years before over and over during that summer holiday, that remain the most poignant to me: they were the soundtrack of that childhood holiday and listening to those songs always brings a smile of recollection. I can’t say I’m a die-hard devotee of the band or their music- much of it is brilliant, the rest either admirable or embarrassing but never inbetween. I guess what I’m saying is, I’m a child of the ‘sixties but I was far too young to have experienced Beatlemania or the years during which the bands music was new and revelatory. The Beatles music is always something of a history lesson, of another (my parents) generation.
Anyway, what has anything of this got to do with Yesterday? I’m not sure. My overall impression of the film is of how slight it was. Its really one of those films that you can tell was born of a single-sentence idea (“what if the Beatles never happened, but one person could remember them?”) and strung into a full movie. Its a clever conceit that initially is quite arresting when you consider how much of a lasting impact the Beatles has had on pop music and pop culture. Someday someone will make a film about a world in which Star Wars never happened and old geeks will gush about how much the film franchise meant to them and how much the film/s changed movies and film culture, I just hope it will have a bit more depth than this thing does.
Yesterday is fine for what it is: its a romantic comedy, liberally laced with great songs from the Beatles. But thats all it is: which is fine, as I say, thats clearly all its intended to be. I suppose my issue with the film is what it isn’t, which is my fault entirely: I just expected some revelation, some Twilght Zone-like moral twist. Not anything dark, it could have been quite life-affirming. I just expected some reset button returning Jack Malick to the real-world suddenly wiser about what is really important (i.e. his best freind Ellie), as if the Beatles songs were teaching him something other than how to become rich on someone elses talent.
I thought that last theme was brilliant by the way: maybe the film is really some subtle allegory for how so much modern culture is built on the talents of those who came before: hell, its like some incisive commentary on JJ Abrams whole career for a start, and the whole Hollywood machine making reboots and remakes and belated sequels ad nauseam. I like to think that was deliberate and quite brilliant, on which level Yesterday is pure subversive genius, but thats really just me pulling one of the stunts of that Shining documentary Room 237 and its marvelously deranged theories.
Danny Boyle has stated that 40% of the films budget was spent on acquiring the 17 somgs that they used in the film. Considering how the film ultimately served as a pure love-letter to the band and what the music meant to those who remembered it in a world utterly devoid of said music, its rather sad that some seriously wealthy individuals or music moguls insisted on taking that money. Yesterday tries to say that music can aspire to be something ‘more’ and should be for everyone, but such noble sentiment feels undermined as the real world maintains that this still comes at a price, afterall.