Release Date(s)2019 (September 24, 2019)
Studio(s)Perfect World/Working Title/Decibel Films (Universal Pictures)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B
Jack Malik (Hamesh Patel, Eastenders) has a dream: He wants to be a successful singer songwriter. His best friend and manager Ellie (Lily James, Baby Driver) certainly believes in him. His family and friends are supportive too. But there’s just one problem: Nobody likes his music. One day, after playing a gig at the Attitude Festival to a nearly empty tent, Jack finally decides to pack it all in and get a real job. And that’s when the unexpected happens: He gets hit by a bus, wakes up in the hospital with two missing teeth… and discovers that he’s the only person left on Earth who remembers The Beatles. Once he recovers from the shock of this, Jack does what any starving artist would do. He seizes his opportunity, reintroduces the world to the music of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, and becomes famous overnight. But the cost of fame is high… and it could prove more than Jack is willing to pay.
Directed by Danny Boyle (Millions, Slumdog Millionaire), Yesterday is a curious film indeed. It’s almost completely predictable, following a tried and true formula that’s been well perfected by writer Richard Curtis in such films as Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Love Actually. But that formula works. What’s more, Hamesh Patel is so likable, and Lily James is so charming, that you can’t help but be drawn into the story. Patel is a newcomer to the big screen, but you’d never know it. He’s a bit gangly and awkward, but he’s playing the music for real, from the heart. Of course, it helps tremendously that it’s some of the best music ever. The supporting cast adds to the mix with a bit of honest quirkiness; they include Ed Sheeran, Kate McKinnon, and Joel Fry. And there are a couple of genuinely surprising moments that elevate this material, including an uncredited cameo by Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty)—I’ll let them remain a surprise for you when you watch.
Yesterday was shot digitally in Redcode RAW (8K) using RED Weapon cameras with Panavision Primo lenses. It was finished as a native 4K Digital Intermediate at the 2.39:1 “scope” ratio and graded for high dynamic range (with options available in HDR10 and HDR10+). Here’s the interesting thing: This is one of those test cases that prove image quality isn’t always just about pure numerical resolution. Don’t get me wrong: Yesterday looks wonderful. But it doesn’t dazzle, for the simple reason that this cinematography and these visuals really don’t call for it to. This film is, in the end, a pretty straightforward romantic comedy/drama. Where the added resolution does help is in the finest textures of skin, clothing, and other surfaces (it really pops in chapter 3, when Jack and his friends celebrate his release from the hospital at a beach cottage—just look at the detail in the brick and grass). The overall clarity is exceptional. The wider gamut adds depth and naturalism to the imagery, with deep shadows, slightly eye-reactive highlights, and rich and nuanced hues (check out Jack’s arrival in SoCal in chapter 10 for a burst of color). No doubt about it, it’s a lovely 4K image. And if your display can take advantage of the dynamic metadata in HDR10+, you’ll be glad of it here.
Audio-wise, Yesterday in 4K UHD offers a similar workmanlike experience. This isn’t a thunderous sonic assault on the senses; the film is driven by dialogue and music. The good news is that it sounds full and rich, with firm low end, and it’s particularly natural as all of the musical performances were captured live on set. When you hear Patel (as Jack) playing a song, he’s not miming to a track—he’s actually signing it live and that’s what you hear in the film. The Atmos mix is designed to create a natural sense of space, with the overheads mostly just completing the environment. (They do kick in a bit more actively in the big concert scenes.) The soundstage is wide, with clever but simple staging and some nice surround play. Again, it’s not a marvel of a mix, but it fits these visuals perfectly. Additional audio selections include French and Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, with optional subtitles available in English SDH, Spanish, and French.
Now, there are a couple of nice things about Universal’s 4K UHD disc. First, it uses a new menu layout to better highlight the disc’s extras and that layout is quite pleasing. Second, the disc actually includes some decent extras. They’re in regular HD and aren’t graded for HDR, but it’s still nice to have them. They include:
- Audio Commentary with Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis
- Alternate Ending (3:10)
- Deleted Scenes (12 scenes with a “play all” option – 23:42 in all)
- Live at Abbey Road Studios (3 songs: Yesterday, I Want to Hold Your Hand, and Let It Be – 9:51 in all)
- Alternate Opening (4:47)
- Gag Reel (2:04)
- A Talented Duo (3:25)
- Playing for Real (5:35)
- Soul Mates (4:47)
- Ed Sheeran: From Stadium to Screen (3:09)
- Agent of Comedy: Kate McKinnon (3:17)
- A Conversation with Richard & Ed (3:22)
The alternate ending is charming and I almost like it more, though the one they actually used does bring the film to a close on a musical high note (and is a perfect final nod to The Beatles). The deleted scenes are interesting and reveal much more of Ellie’s evolving flirtation with Gavin, but the film is definitely better without them. I do quite like one scene though—Corden & Roxanne—which includes a cameo by Ana de Armas (Joi in Blade Runner 2049) and was seen in the trailers. The featurettes are solid, if pretty standard fare, but virtually every important member of the cast and crew makes an appearance to weigh in. Live at Abbey Road Studios is just what you expect, and it’s pretty wonderful—probably the best thing on the disc. Patel’s performance in this legendary space is intercut with scenes from the film. The remarkable thing is that Patel wasn’t any kind of musician before he appeared in this film; he really makes it work and he’s a serious talent. The commentary is also quite good. Boyle and Curtis have great camaraderie; you’re essentially listening to two old friends chatting enthusiastically about their work. There are lots of interesting stores and little insights, particularly with regard to the casting and the decision to record the music live, and there’s plenty of humor too. Naturally, you also get the film on Blu-ray with identical extras (reviewed separately here at The Bits) and a Movies Anywhere Digital Code.
Danny Boyle is one of those rare filmmakers who never disappoints. No matter what genre he’s working in, he always manages to deliver an interesting filmgoing experience… and sometimes an unexpected one too. Yesterday isn’t a perfect film, but it is lovely and it looks and sounds marvelous in 4K Ultra HD. Recommended.
- Bill Hunt