"I wonder if people who stand up to cheer a hagiography of Che Guevara, as the Sundance audience did, will ever give a damn about the oppressed people of Cuba - will ever lift a finger on behalf of the Cuban liberals and dissidents. "-Paul Berman in slant.com on The Motorcycle Diaries
A struggling musician realises he is the only person on Earth who can remember the Beatles after waking up in an alternate timeline where they never existed.
Review by Louise Keller: You have to hand it to Love Actually writer Richard Curtis and director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire): they have concocted an upbeat melee of cultures, music and emotions twisted around an audacious conceit in the guise of a zany tribute to the Beatles. It is original and audacious, but the film never soars as I had hoped - one idea is stretched to the limit. Although, what's not to like when hearing 15 of the Beatles' best?
Through the notion that no-one (except a struggling singer songwriter protagonist) remembers the Beatles (after a blackout and bus crash), we are reminded of the indelible library of songs that made the Fab Four a phenomenon. We even take a trip to Liverpool and wander down Penny Lane, find reference to Eleanor Rigby and more. It is character and music that jostle for attention, but the songs are delivered as a tease.
The film offers EastEnders' Himesh Patel a dream role, allowing him to display musical talents, vulnerability and goofy charm. While Lily James may appear to do little except look pretty, she is the heart of the film - the warm, authentic guiding light who leads Patel from dreams to reality.
Curtis's skill is to flesh out his characters and makes us care about them. Whether it is Patel's struggling artist Jack, who is looking for a miracle (and loses two front teeth while searching) or James' Ellie, the teacher and part-time manager who longs to be something else - we understand them. Watch for Debra (Kate McKinnon in a scene stealing role), as the obnoxious manager who delivers insult after insult to poor Jack about his 'off-putting appearance'. Our leap of faith is pushed a little too far at one point but I did enjoy the plot strand involving Eddie Sheeran and that of the couple who know something that we do not. The scene in which Jack plays Let It Be for his parents is very funny.
You may imagine it is the songs that steal the show, but surprisingly it is the central love story and Jack's personal journey that win the day. It's a feel-good film about dreams and love set on a backdrop of Beatles music. There is much to like; yet I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed.
Review by Andrew L. Urban: They are still a river of great songs, nostalgia notwithstanding, and The Beatles can only be forgotten in a parallel universe of Richard Curtis' imagination, as in Yesterday. The film underscores what every Beatles fan knows: there will never be another phenomenon like it.
Danny Boyle makes good use of all 15 songs (not all in full, of course, it's not a concert), so it can seem like an entertaining Beatles catalogue promo - but who cares. I don't.
The romantic comedy wrapped around the whimsical conceit sticks to the genre rules meticulously, with love interest Lily James perfectly cast as Ellie, the school teacher doubling as the small time manager for Himesh Patel's struggling muso, Jack. But when the Beatles material starts pouring out of him, Jack is headed for the big time. Which is when he comes across record label marketing force of bad nature, Kate McKinnon's Debra.
Curtis likes his conceit a bit too much and uses it twice more (I won't spoil with what), in cases where it doesn't work quite as well. It's amusing all the same. There is a slightly uncomfortable device referencing John Lennon, which is also sorta amusing, if weird.
Patel makes a terrific Jack, his two missing teeth taking a starring role in the first act, and his often hangdog expression helps sell the concept of a reluctant star plagiarising the Beatles. Along the way, plenty of fun with the icons themselves always a welcome ghostly presence behind the scenes.