Subjectivity is undeniably important in the appreciation of art though I’m inclined to believe that in our enthusiasm for subjectivity in that sphere, we often undermine the significance of objectivity. Objectively speaking, one might make a compelling case that The Beatles are the greatest band of all time. My opinion is that they they are, objectively, despite the Liverpoolian quartet not even being close to one of my favourite bands. The sheer volume of creativity and quality that the The Beatles are responsible for is phenomenal.
The wealth of their contribution to the world is on showcase in Danny Boyle’s new film, Yesterday, which was penned by Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Love, Actually writer, Richard Curtis. Boyle and Curtis’ zeal for The Beatles permeates the film. I would suggest it is infectious but The Beatles don’t need Boyle and Curtis’ enthusiasm for their music to spread like a pleasurable virus. Yesterday acts as a welcome reminder for those who haven’t listened to The Beatles in a while. Enough great songs are in the film that you may miss the ones that aren’t. If you’re not a fan of the band, Yesterday isn’t for you. It also doesn’t mean you’re wrong but it sure doesn’t mean you’re right.
The film revolves around the fun, high concept premise that the entire world forgets who The Beatles are overnight. The exception to that change is Jack Malick (Himesh Patel), a singer-songwriter from Clacton-on-Sea, whose passion for his dream of becoming a recognised artist makes up for his lack of talent. Managing his creatively meagre endeavours is the luminous Ellie (Lily James) and it is immediately apparent that her interest in Jack extends beyond his music. That Jack doesn’t appear to reciprocate Ellie’s affections is the most farfetched element in a film jam packed full of farfetched elements.
What would the world look like without The Beatles? Perhaps very similar though that’s not a comment intended to be reductive of the band’s influence or talent, which is colossal. It might be too difficult to say what the world would be like without The Beatles’ music but we can safely say we’re glad that we have it. A minor subplot involving the only two other people in the world who remember the band reflects this, eventuating in an unexpected but warm conclusion.
For all its intentions, Yesterday is a sloppy film. There is an uneasy incompatibility to Boyle and Curtis’ styles. Both men have distinct manners of creative expression and they have the effect of muting one another here. Boyle’s chaotic energy is notably toned down while Curtis’ saccharine wit is often lost in Boyle’s pace. The consequence of this is that the premise is ever realised to its fullest potential.
I’m generally disinclined to advice lowering standards when it comes to watching films since it’s the individual lowering of standards that has engendered similar attitudes on a global scale. Yet Yesterday is best approached with a happy heart and a lenience towards its shortcomings. There are quite a few, but sometimes it’s nice just to feel nice. Ob-la di, ob-la-da.