Imagine a word where the the worlds most most influential early pop band “The Beatles” never existed? This is the central premise of the new rom-com from director Danny Boyle.
“Jack Malik” (Himesh Patel) is a struggling musician/teacher who usually plays to audiences of two or three small children, even when booked to a “festival” by manager/friend “Ellie” (Lily James).
One evening whilst riding his bike, a worldwide power blackout causes a Jack/Bus interface in which his teeth are knocked out. Cue ribbing from his friends and eventually the presentation of a new guitar as a present following his trauma. A special guitar requires a special song and he performs an impromptu rendition of “Yesterday”
As pointed out, no “Fix You” but still pretty good when you have never heard it before. This eventually leads Jack to realize he is the only person in the world who knew the Beatles existed and following some prompting, can remember the Beatles extensive back catalogue. This provides an opportunity for almost certain celebrity and fortune, he just needs to choose the poison chalice of fame and ignore any ethical concerns.
As Jack moves towards mega stardom, via a new manager and stereotypical shark music producer (Kate McKinnon), he gradually leaves fellow teacher Ellie behind. Ellie of course is the love of his life he fails to to see and notice, with Ellie ending up in the column marked “friend”.
The tone is light and premise interesting but the film runs out of steam and fails to follow through on the initial idea, which is a pity. Adding the real Ed Sheeran playing himself either adds or detracts depending on your viewpoint but allows some impressive real/fake concert footage for Patel to act against.
Patel is an impressive actor/performer and is clearly enjoying every minute. James is required to add the pathos and does so effectively in a couple of touching scenes. A sequence involving a former Beatles band member seems out of left field but provides the catalyst for a later change of story-line.
A quick mention for “Rocky” (Joel Fry) who is splendidly and intentionally dumb, always saying and doing the wrong thing at the right time and McKinnon advising Jack he will make a ton of money and she will take most of it, as music producers do.
Suspension of disbelief is of course required, which generally is in short supply for 2019 audiences, as no explanation for the phenomena is provided. Director Boyle & screenwriter Richard Curtis taking the decision to skew lighter from the original Jack Barth story to bring the romantic aspects to the forefront, which dulls a slightly harder edge.
A highly enjoyable “date” movie unlikely to offend many with “The Beatles” songs sounding as good as ever, with a modern spin and addition of a 2019 marketing package.
Arguably falling somewhat short of the full promise by not capitalizing on the original idea but in a sea of sequels, any original story should be praised and supported