Updated: Sep 29, 2019
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
(1) Newcomer Himesh Patel plays singer/songwriter Jack Malik, whose career takes off after a global blackout. (2) Jack performs a punk rock version of “Help!”
in front of 6,000 fans for his album release party.
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2019; PG-13 for suggestive content and profanity; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime; Apple TV (4K); FandangoNOW (4K); Google Play (4K); Vudu (4K); YouTube (4K)
Best extra: Commentary with director Danny Boyle and producer/screenwriter Richard Curtis
AFTER QUITTING over creative differences to helm the upcoming 25th James Bond film “No Time to Die,” Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) latched himself onto the charming fairy tale of “Yesterday.” The story is from British producer/screenwriter Richard Curtis (“Four Weddings and a Funeral” & “Bridget Jones’s Diary”), and follows down-and-out singer/songwriter Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), who awakens after a worldwide power outage as the only person on Earth who remembers the Fab Four: John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
Curtis and Boyle knew they needed someone who could actually sing and play The Beatles songs. Himesh Patel wasn’t an obvious choice since he had no “track record in films,” Boyle says in the featurette “Playing for Real.” “But, when he played the songs, I knew we had one of those moments in casting. And, I thought we got to have him.”
“To make sure I did the [songs] well” was daunting, says Patel. He describes himself as a self-taught guitar player, who’s played for 10 years, but hesitates to call himself a musician. He and music producer Adem Ilhan spend months going over the songs – especially since all would be recorded live on the set. “I was convinced that’s the way these songs had to work,” Boyle says.
(1) Jack Malik is a lonely street musician, trying to make it as a singer/songwriter in Suffolk, England. (2) Ellie (Lily James) his manager gives Jack the good news that she's scheduled him the opportunity to perform at the Latitude Music Festival. (3) Jack had his own tent at the festival, but sadly only Ellie and friends Nick and Carol and some kids listen to him sing his favorite "Summer Song."
Patel is quite believable as Jack, setting the right tone and comic timing as the guy whose career is going nowhere. Jack left his schoolteacher post to begin working part-time as a store clerk at a Costco-like store, because its flexible work schedule could match his gigs. The delightful Lily James (“Cinderella” “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”) plays Ellie, his childhood best friend and his manager, who drops him off at his bike after a long day at the Suffolk Latitude Music Festival – another bust for Jack.
Then, while riding home, the streets lights suddenly go dark, and a bus hits Jack during the 12-second global blackout. Boyle calls it a “fun reverse miracle,” during his commentary with Curtis. The next morning Ellie is at Jack’s hospital bedside. He is missing two front teeth and has several nasty cuts on his face. The tragedy is his guitar was crushed during the accident.
Jack tells Ellie, “Will you still need me, will you still feed me. When I’m sixty-four?” She’s puzzled and replies, “Why sixty-four?” As Jack leaves the hospital Ellie tells him, she thinks the freaky accident was a “Message from God.” He responds, “I didn’t ask to be The Beatles, I just wanted once to have a standing ovation not given by people who were already standing at the bar.” But she quietly asks, “Beatle what?”
(1) Jack heads home on his bike after the Latitude Music Festival and notices the street lights are starting to flicker. (2) Jack was hit by a bus during the 12-second global blackout. (3) Jack awakes in the hospital with two teeth missing and his beard cut off to dress the cuts on his face. (4) Ellie, Nick, and Carol get Jack a new guitar. He starts to sing "Yesterday."
They meet up with friends Nick (Harry Michell) and Carol (Sophia Di Martino), where Jack receives a new Martin guitar. They ask him to play something. Jack says, “A great guitar requires a great song” and he begins:
“Yesterday. All my troubles seemed so far away. Now it seems as though they’re here to stay. Oh, I believe in yesterday. Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be. There’s a shadow hanging over me Oh, yesterday came suddenly. Why she had to go I don’t know. She wouldn’t say. I said something wrong. Now I long for yesterday.”
Everyone is shocked. No one has ever heard of The Beatles or their music. Once Jack realizes he can steal The Beatles’ songbook for himself, he claims each number as a Jack Malik original. He quickly releases a demo LP, with Ellie as backup, becoming a local success. Even so, he still can’t support himself and lives with his parents (Meera Syal & Sanjeev Bhaskar).
British pop star Ed Sheeran (playing himself) catches Jack on local TV and invites him to join him on tour. Off they go to Moscow, where Jack sings “Back in the U.S.S.R.” Boyle reveals during the commentary, the Russia nightclub was actually filmed in Liverpool, the home of The Beatles. After the gig, Jack is lured to Los Angeles by Ed’s manager, Debra Hammer (Kate McKinnon) who promises him the world.
“Until a month ago you were a complete failure. And somehow you became the biggest star in the world, as if by magic.” — Music manager Debra Hammer
(1) After several Google searches Jack discovers The Beatles never happened. Now he realizes their amazing songbook is up for grabs, only if he can remember the lyrics and chords. (2) Jack unveils "Let it Be" to his parents (Meera Syal & Sanjeev Bhaskar). (3) A local recording studio offers free recording time for Jack's demo album. (4) Pops star Ed Sheeran (playing himself) meets Jack at his parent's home after watching him on local TV.
Sheeran says the story is reminiscent of his early career growing up in Suffolk, northeast of London, the same place where Jack lives, with “gigging in bingo halls that no one turns up for,” says Sheeran. In a crazy side note, Ed convinces Jack to change the lyrics for “Hey, Jude” to “Hey, Dude” and the two faceoff in a songwriters duel over who can write the catchiest song in 10-minutes. Jack wins hands down with “The Long and Winding Road.”
Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr the surviving members of The Beatles and the estates of John Lennon and George Harrison, all gave the go-ahead to use the music. Seventeen of their best are weaved throughout the tale.
Curtis’ films are known for their rom-com flare, and this one fills the bill, with sparks flying between Ellie and Jack. Boyle describes his film as “A full-hearted romance that believes in love. And, a belief in The Beatles is a belief in love.”
The 4K disc and digital versions all include a three-minute alternate ending and a nearly five-minute alternate opening, gag reel, and six brief featurettes including interviews with Curtis, Boyle, the cast and producers. Sheeran has kind words for Patel, who considered his vocals fresh and untrained, sounding “like there’s heart in it.”
Boyle also felt a connection between Patel and the songs. “He’s both utterly respectful and yet free.” Another highlight is three music videos filmed and recorded live inside the famed Abbey Road Studios, where The Beatles created their magic. Patel and the band perform “Yesterday,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Let it Be.”
(1 & 2) Ed Sheeran asked Jack to join him during a concert in Moscow. The crowd goes wild during his version of "Back in the U.S.S.R." (3 & 4) During a 10-minute challenge to write the catchiest song Ed listens to Jack's version of "The Long and Winding Road."
This 4K movie is a rarity within the format, but possibly a wave of the future. Boyle and cinematographer Christopher Ross captured “Yesterday” on 8K Redcode RAW cameras (2.39:1 aspect ratio) and then mastered it in 4K. The results are stunning with impeccable sharpness and clarity – especially during wide-angle shots at London’s Wembley Stadium and from the rooftop of the Pier Hotel, where Jack sings a punk rock version of The Beatles’ “Help!”
HDR toning with the standard HDR10 and HDR10+ is slightly less saturated than the HD version, which appears over-bright at times. Facial toning is natural without any excess red or orange tint, while the highlights are controlled on 4K (disc & digital), without blown-out highlights. Darker scenes are dark and bold without losing detail. Outdoor scenes really punch on-screen during the final act.
For ones without 4K at home, the Blu-ray also looks impressive, with plenty of clarity and snap within the limits of the 1080p format.
The 4K and Blu-ray both feature an active and punchy eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack, while the digital platforms offer the lesser and compressed Dolby Digital six-channel track. Deep bass arrives at the right moments, while environmental sounds pushed to height speakers during concert scenes adding a nice, atmospheric touch. Dialogue is well-balanced, and never gets lost within all of the music.
“Yesterday” is a celebration of The Beatles and romance, so why not join the party … especially since this week is the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four’s release of “Abbey Road.”
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
(1) Jack and his roadie Rocky (Joel Fry) arrive in Hollywood. (2) Jack is courted by record manager Debra Hammer (Kate McKinnon) who promises him the world. (3) Ellie and Jack spent the day together in Liverpool, but will it lead to something more? (4) The record company unveils the media campaign for Jack's first album.
(1) Ed Sheeran introduces the Wembley Stadium crowd to Jack Malik. (2) After Jack's set of songs including "Back in the U.S.S.R" and "All You Need is Love" he points to the large screen, which shows Ellie backstage. (3 & 4) Jack reveals his true feelings for his best friend.