Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran
Runtime: 1 hr 57 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Coarse Language)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 8 August 2019
Synopsis: Yesterday, everyone knew The Beatles. Today, only Jack remembers their songs. He's about to become a very big deal. From Academy Award(r)-winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later) and Richard Curtis, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually and Notting Hill, comes a rock-n-roll comedy about music, dreams, friendship, and the long and winding road that leads to the love of your life. Jack Malik (Himesh Patel, BBC's Eastenders) is a struggling singer-songwriter in a tiny English seaside town whose dreams of fame are rapidly fading, despite the fierce devotion and support of his childhood best friend, Ellie (Lily James, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again). Then, after a freak bus accident during a mysterious global blackout, Jack wakes up to discover that The Beatles have never existed ... and he finds himself with a very complicated problem, indeed.
English director has helmed some of this reviewer’s favourite films. They range from charming (2004’s Millions and 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire) and trippy (2000’s The Beach and 2013’s Trance), to thought provoking (1994’s Trainspotting and its 2017 sequel) and reflective (2007’s Sunshine and 2010’s 127 Hours). At first glance, Boyle’s latest work aims to be a sweet homage to The Beatles, but it also tries to weave in elements of fantasy, romance and a statement of how music is currently run as a business.
The story is a nice welcome in this day and age of comic book adaptations, sequels and franchised series. Based on an original screenplay by Jack Barth and Mackenzie Crook, the movie’s protagonist is a struggling musician who becomes the only person who remembers The Fab Four after getting into a freak accident. His career takes a turn when he takes credit for writing and singing well loved tunes like “Yesterday”, “Let it Be”, “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Hey Jude”.
This is an interesting premise, if you ask us. It sure helps that Richard Curtis penned the screenplay. Known for his work on romantic comedies like Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Bridget Jones's Diary (2001) and Love Actually (2003), this movie would win the hearts of the genre.
However, if you are looking for something more than a delightful piece of work that will have you smiling from beginning to end, you may end up wanting more. The movie never delves deeper into why the world has forgotten The Beatles (together with Coca Cola, cigarettes and Harry Potter). If there is a message about pop culture that we missed, it might not have been clear enough in this movie. When the film ends, you won’t walk out of the theatre with a thoughtful takeaway.
Which isn’t a bad thing, actually. Because the 117 movie is so agreeable, you will be enjoying every moment of it. Himesh Patel is extremely likeable with his portrayal of an earnest musician (he does his own singing!), and the ensemble cast of Lily James (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again) as a childhood friend and love interest, Kate McKinnon (The Spy Who Dumped Me) as a snappy artiste manager and Joel Fry (10,000 BC) as a slacker buddy will make you think that the actors had a lot of fun on set. We also love the inclusion of Ed Sheeran (who also played himself in Bridget Jones's Baby) and Robert Carlyle (who is almost unrecognisable as John Lennon) in this very agreeable movie.
Then there is the music. Throughout the film, you will be treated to some of The Beatles’ greatest hits, as well some of their less known tunes. When it comes to movies that put the English rock band’s songs in the spotlight, the other title that comes to mind is Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe (2007). While the musical drama was inventive and featured many psychedelic musical sequences, it received mixed reviews from critics. Viewers who want a more straightforward form of enjoyment should look to Boyle’s stylistic film instead, because it will have you believing the love is all you need.
(The extremely likeable film features charming performances, and of course, music that you love)
Review by John Li