Sweet, cute and funny. That’s a quick description of Yesterday, the new film from director Danny Boyle.

You’ve seen people like Jack Malik (Himesh Patel). Strumming a guitar and singing in the corner of a bar or restaurant. Not awful but also not great. Being ignored by most patrons except a handful of friends.

Jack has a day gig in a warehouse in the UK and is ready to give up on his musical ambitions. Encouragement keeps coming from his manager and biggest fan Ellie (Lily James). But then something outrageous happens that causes the entire world to erase all memory of the Beatles and their music.

Except Jack. He remembers. And his handling of this exclusive knowledge drives Yesterday’s narrative. I advise you to buy into the fantasy and not question certain plot points. You’ll like (and maybe even love) Yesterday more if you play along.

When Jack performs Beatles songs as his own compositions, people are impressed by these classic tunes. Because they are new to them. He’s stunned when Ed Sheeran (as himself) knocks on his door to draft Jack into his musical realm.

Jack enjoys the fruits of worldwide success but knows that he is a fraud. He likes the acclaim but is conflicted with guilt feelings. Meanwhile, Ellie, who is left behind when Jack goes abroad, keeps appearing on the edges of Jack’s orbit.

Will Jack’s fake songwriting ability be uncovered? Will Jack and Ellie become a couple? Will music biz manager Debra (Kate McKinnon in a hilarious role) ever let up the gas on her hard-nosed attitude?

Director Boyle, whose resumé includes Trainspotting, The Beach and 127 Hours along with Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire, delivers a movie that is consistently visually interesting—at times to advance the story and at other times to keep his audience involved. Musical performances in film can sometimes be tedious; in Yesterday they all look good.

The script is by Richard Curtis who has also has an impressive curriculum vitae. Films he’s written include Notting Hill, Bridget Jone’s Diary, War Horse and Love, Actually. Yesterday is a movie that’s funny but not annoyingly so. The romcom angle may be subtle to some viewers but will be plainly obvious to those looking for it.

A must-see? Maybe not. But this fun, light story—featuring some of the best pop music of our lifetimes—will make you happy.







Not Fade Away

How many young American males started playing guitars or drums in the 60’s and then formed rock groups? After seeing the Beatles and the Stones, as well as successful American rock groups, and the responses of girls to the bands, it was almost a natural progression.

Not Fade Away is autobiographical fiction that tells the story of a young man in a rock band in New Jersey in the second half of the 1960’s. From the rehearsals in garages, to the first gigs in basement corners, to meetings with agents, to the eventual journey to the west coast.

Writer/director David Chase was in such a band. The story is not particularly compelling, but Not Fade Away captures the mood and feel of the 60’s with amazing accuracy. Arguments with parents about the Vietnam War and comments from dads about long hair are parts of the 60’s many of us recall.

Of course, the centerpiece of the movie is the music. I loved hearing forgotten 60’s hits like Pretty Ballerina by Left Banke and Itchykoo Park by Small Faces.

Not Fade Away is a period piece that is more about recapturing the feel of those memorable years in Chase’s life than it is about characters and plot. For most baby boomers, especially those who loved the music of the era, Not Fade Away is a fun trip back in time.