You've seen "Yesterday" before.
Well, not literally. But this romantic-comedy/loving Beatles homage is the kind of movie you watch half of the trailer for and then just instinctively know how the rest of the movie will play out. You know all the rom-com plot beats, all the lyrics to the songs and all of the standard movie musical tropes.
The funny thing is that I don't think the predictability detracts from the movie at all. There's something so relaxing--in a rainy Sunday afternoon kind of way--about watching a summer movie that isn't trying to bludgeon you with spectacle and a multitude of sub-plots.
The real charm of "Yesterday" lies in the sheer fun everyone is having here with the music. The plot is almost secondary: it's a nice story about a struggling musician, Jack Malik (Hamish Patel), and the girl, Ellie Appleton (Lily James), who still supports him no matter how much he continues to fail. Once Jack starts to miraculously achieve musical stardom by being the only person alive who remembers the Beatles after a blackout erases the world's memory of the band, he has to choose to either pursue his musical dream or his childhood love.
Screenwriter Michael Curtis brings the same amount of genuine heart and unabashed cheesiness to "Yesterday" that helped elevate his movies "Four Weddings and a Funeral", "Love Actually" and "About Time" to classic status in the rom-com genre, so there's no surprises coming from the script.
The real surprise here is that Danny Boyle, Best Director Oscar winner for Slumdog Millionaire, directed "Yesterday." He's not exactly known for being a filmmaker with a delicate touch. He's most famous for graphically depicting someone cutting their arm off in 127 Hours, speeding up zombie movies in 28 Days Later and dramatizing the tragedy of heroin addiction in Trainspotting.
Boyle doesn't bring any of that visceral flair to his directing, but he easily goes further with the style here than anyone would demand of him. For example, instead of shooting the scene where Jack first plays "Yesterday" by focusing solely on Jack and his friends like a traditional director would, Boyle chooses to cut away every so often to show the serene ocean, with the waves calmly lapping at the shore, and random people just going about their day. Small, but sweet and subtle, touches like that are everywhere in "Yesterday" and they constantly serve as moments of breathing room that allow you to relax into the world of the movie.
Overall, if you're a fan of the Beatles at all or if you just want a nice movie to watch while you try to stay cool this summer, "Yesterday" is a solid choice.
Last Minute Thoughts: I don't want to list many of the songs in the movie because half of the fun is wondering which one is going to come up next, but there is a scene where Jack plays "In My Life" that you should be on the lookout for. It's just delightful.
I would have liked if they included two or three more songs and would have loved if "Dear Prudence" was included since it's my favorite Beatles song.
I agree with Rottentomatoes' score of 60%.