This is the problem with not doing so much during the day. You get rusty, and though it hasn’t been ages since my last post it still feels like ages. This is also the problem with every day bleeding into the next until for all you know you’ve been living in a hole in the ground for the last 8 years. I don’t have long because I’m tied up with real work now but there is something that’s been preying on my mind and as many of us are scratching away for any form of entertainment at the moment this may serve as a useful deterrent. Yesterday. Be warned. Approach Yesterday with extreme caution because in Yesterday can only be found the blandest and most thoroughly predictable of distractions.
By Yesterday I mean the film, not the day before today. Unfortunately my sloth means that I didn’t watch Yesterday yesterday. Or indeed the day before yesterday. In fact it was Saturday, but as an experience it was so fruitless that the main sticking points are well and truly stuck. The premise is pretty simple, which is fine because it’s a film for simpletons, something I find hard to write because I have a great deal of respect for both Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis. Briefly: a quite bad musician who wonders when he’ll get his big break has an accident during a global power cut and when he comes to it turns out he’s the only person that can remember anything about The Beatles.
Various non-funny scenarios ensue whereby his friends are wowed by his new song writing talent as he churns out hit after hit from a band that no one realises even existed. On paper I suppose it looks like an idea. And that’s what it is – one idea, stretched out to cover the length of a film. I admire Boyle because he has made some great films, but we must remember he was also responsible for the super crap Slumdog Millionaire. I admire Curtis because he co-penned Blackadder along with a few perfectly functioning grey day romcoms, but let us recall his hand also in filler duds like Mr Bean and Notting Hill. Chuck in a very vanilla lead actor and the world’s most overplayed band and while a hit you may have, artistic success you do not.
I hadn’t heard of Himesh Patel until he appeared on the Graham Norton Show (which in its current lockdown format is, incidentally, judderingly bad and an awful non-starter). Apparently he was in EastEnders for quite some time, so that’s his pedigree established. As the lead male in Yesterday he was just about adequate but as a musician he did not convince on any level. What he did manage to do is to make me grateful that The Beatles did actually exist, because his interpretations of their songs are dreadful throughout. He dredges all the beauty from Let It Be and Here Comes The Sun and dumps it on the side with the dead otters and shopping trollies. Point – if you’re going to cover The Beatles do it well or, much easier, don’t bother.
The film is also a conduit for some kind of other intergalactic sewage because Ed Sheeran appears quite frequently as a wooden, almost scarily lifelike version of himself in another, virtual world. What he has to prove is proved very well indeed and that is that his gift for acting is just as non-dimensional as his song writing. He comes across as shallow and gently arrogant and at least he should be applauded for nailing himself so well. Yesterday also features a cameo from James Corden, which nearly meant the end of our TV at the time, but I’ve recovered now. I’m really trying hard to think of two people I would want to avoid more in any chosen moment of my life and frankly Sheeran and Corden do make an almost unbeatable brace of empty, foetid gamebirds, fouling up the spring air.
Yesterday’s greatest crime however, is that it is virtually unwatchable. We must have paused it a dozen times to wander off and perform various menial tasks in the hope that when we came back it would be better. It never was. It was charmlessly predictable, very unfunny even in the bits that I can only assume were meant to be funny, and I can’t see who it was aimed at except for Beatles fans with no sense of humour or rom-com fans with no traceable standards. It’s also quite a bad sign that a film that is essentially a free advertisement for The Beatles had to cough up £10 million just to use the songs. Perhaps Paul and Ringo needed their patios repointing. Yesterday is as flavourless and life sapping a film as I have seen for a long time. I won’t go as far as to say I’d rather have been on a ventilator but if I had the choice again I would have to give it a few moments thought.
G B Hewitt. 21.04.2020