Written by Richard Curtis (Notting Hill, Love Actually) and produced/directed by elfin Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, Steve Jobs, but also stinkers like 2011's Frankenstein), Yesterday feels local, fresh, and 100% English (our only interloper being SNL's Kate McKinnon). It also feels intimate, though sometimes too small. (Definitely too small for The Beatles, right?)
As a rom-com it's serviceable enough, though periodically hammy and frequently heavy-handed, especially whenever Lily James tries (failingly) to act surprised, which she does at least three goofy times.
As something more though, like, say, a sharp commentary on purposefulness, love, modern identity, superficiality, belonging, being valued, stick-to-itiveness, or art (to say nothing of its 'odeness' to The Beatles themselves), Yesterday reaches for the stars while never leaving Earth.
There were a few moments when I thought the film might actually get lift and become transcendent, a mighty commentary roiling just beneath the surface surely to become a tidal wave of point-making, or an anthemic Phil Spector wall of sound destined to roar around the bend like a heavy iron freight train, but nope, no such thing ever happens. Nowhere near.
I left, therefore, feeling somewhat unfulfilled.
But do not despair, not completely, at least.
There is a tiny, promising moment in Act III when aerial drone footage tracks high above a taxi that deposits a character into a remote, windswept, seaside home filled with beautifully simplistic watercolor paintings no bigger than a postcard. A conversation unfolds there, but it doesn't go anywhere magical.
Or does it?
Maybe that's precisely the point: Twisty, potholed, abandoned, untended, or overgrown it may become, the long and winding road will never disappear. In fact, lost as we get or try as we might to resist, it faithfully leads us here, right where we're supposed to be.
Rock on, Jack; rock on.