Review: Yesterday

A world without The Beatles.

A horrifying thought for sure. What if John, Paul, George, and Ringo never found their calling? What would today look like without the musical progression of these “long-haired louts”? I can’t imagine what the world would be like but it would certainly be nothing like today.

The director’s image of modern life without The Beatles doesn’t go in depth about the repercussions—which would be difficult to do considering how big an influence they were on many musicians, amateur and elite, not to mention creatives in all streams, and the everyman. Maybe I’m talking them up a bit much, but you have to remember that this group was a rock and roll revolution for their time.1 Dany Boyle (Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire) did however show that the world would be incomprehensibly different by removing some of the biggest staples of Modernity.

In a world much like our own, Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) finds himself being had on by all of his friends, playing a Beatles classic ‘Yesterday’ and being praised for his inventive genius. And what would any reasonable man do in his situation? He agonises over whether he should take credit for the music, not once considering keeping it to himself. And so, Jack’s journey begins, along with his manager Ellie (Lily James) and his unlikely supporter Ed Sheeran. But fame has never been Jack’s dream and it soon becomes too much. He’s losing Ellie and if Ellie is the cost of fame, who would want to be famous?

Patel is well suited to playing Malik, the down and out musician and his pained facial expressions really make the character authentic. Malik’s struggles as a musician quickly turn around with a little help from his friends and an impressive exercise in memory, recalling every word to songs such as ‘Strawberry Fields” and “Eleanor Rigby” and revealing them to the world.

A sweet British film, Yesterday reminds us of the power and influence of music, while also showing us a side to Ed I still don’t believe. Staying reasonably true to the music minus the butchering of ‘Hey Jude’ (thanks Ed) and a change of pace, the film is a fun response to The Beatles legacy and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a easy-going and fun rom-com.

 


3.5 stars.

Words by Kayla Gaskell

Review: Wild Rose

Wild Rose follows Glaswegian Rose-Lynn Harlan on her journey to become a country star, despite being recently released from prison and being a single mother to two young children. This is a classic rags to riches narrative that country music is so fond of. Played by Jesse Buckley, Rose-Lynn is a bright disaster of a person – she’s talented but can’t seem to make her big break and doesn’t seem capable of taking on her own responsibilities, including caring for her children. The odds are stacked against her and we spend much of the film rooting for her.

 
Despite country music and Rose-Lynn’s deep love for the genre – she even has ‘three cords and the truth’ tattooed on her forearm – the film doesn’t take many pains to flesh that relationship out. Rose-Lynn doesn’t write her own music, or play guitar, or even seemingly to have an attachment to a specific musician. Country has a deep tradition of heartache and you could draw a parallel between the lives of Hank Williams and Rose-Lynn. Williams was the granddaddy of country and damaged many of his relationships with his mother, estranged wife, and his sobriety, in order to play at the Nashville Opry stage. Rose-Lynn has much of the same ambition and her goal throughout was to make it to Nashville, and when she succeeds she even sneaks onto the Opry stage and sings a song before being kicked out. However, because the film doesn’t discuss or show the importance of Nashville to stars like Hank Williams or Dolly Parton, the moment feels less than emphatic, lost in translation.

 
The same could be said of the relationships closer to Rose-Lynn’s day to day life. Her relationship with her children always feels slightly estranged, even when the film makes a turn and she makes more of an effort to know them. In part this is due to a lack of characterisation and history. We never really know very much about the children, other than they’re something tying Rose-Lynn to Scotland, stopping her from her pursuing her dreams full-time. We also never really understand the situation that saw Rose-Lynn with two young children under the age of ten. Rose-Lynn also has a boyfriend who seems to disappear entirely before the third-act and doesn’t offer much at all in the way narratively.

 
The richest relationships Rose-Lynn has are between the woman she cleans for and her own mother. Rose-Lynn’s mother wants her to settle down and take responsibility for herself and her children, while her boss is the only person actively encouraging her to pursue her country career. The two women are opposing forces in the singer’s life, and ultimately she decides to try and find a middle ground.

 
Despite the wobbly characterisation, Wild Rose is home to some very funny, sweet moments. Jesse Buckley brings a lot of brightness and spunk to Rose-Lynn and sings very sweetly. Mostly, Wild Rose made me want to listen to Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’ at volume and dance around my room. I’d recommend this film if you’re looking for some light fun and some country heartache.

 


Words by Riana Kinlough
3/5

The Death of Stalin

‘I know the drill. Smile, shake hands, and try not to call them cunts.’

The Death of Stalin is thoroughly stamped with the unique talent and style of Armando Ianucci, the creator of the UK’s The Thick of It, and subsequently the US’s Veep. The film is based upon a graphic novel but the final product feels unmistakably Ianucci’s.

The film follows the political manoeuvres of soviet leaders in the wake of, surprisingly enough, Stalin’s death. It features a sizeable host of respected actors from both Britain and the United States with not one of them bothering with even a motion in the direction of a Russian accent – some even seem to go quite the other way.

This cavalcade of stars is headed by sterling performances from Steve Buscemi as Nikita Khrushchev (‘I’m the peacemaker and I’ll fuck over anyone who gets in my way’), Jason Isaacs as Georgy Zhukov (‘I took Germany, I think I can take a flesh lump in a waistcoat’), and Jeffrey Tambor as Georgy Malenkov (‘I have no idea what is going on’).

It surely seems a tough ask to find humour in such a dark time in human history but the balance is found by never turning the humour on the suffering but simply on the perverse and absurd scramble for power. In this respect, the same style present in The Thick of It and Veep can be found. Also present, and surely a necessity of an Ianucci script is the liberal use of coarse language. Peter Capaldi (Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It) may not present to lend his masterful swearing to the film but the rest of the cast certainly picks up the slack.

If the film has an antagonist, it is surely Beria, who is played in suitably grotesque and monstrous fashion by Simon Russell Beale. The head of the NKVD, instrumental in Stalin’s lengthy death lists, sexual predator, and ‘sneaky little shit’, Beria is set aside from other characters for being several measures more assured in his manipulation of the political system and being more inclined to violence. While a few jokes do go Beria’s way, he is always suitably menacing and cunning.

The film acknowledges the broad strokes of history but plays fast and loose with the smaller details. It’s not an advisable choice for historical research as it is unlikely General Zhukov ever asked Malenkov if Coco Chanel had taken a shit on his head but on the other hand, I know of no historical document that can disprove that.

Ultimately, The Death of Stalin finds its best moments in the absurdity of political manoeuvring, the awkwardness of officialdom, and the stupidity of tradition. In these respects it has a very similar tone to The Thick of It and Veep and finds even in the most serious of situations, most people, like Comrade Malenkov, ‘have no idea what is going on.’


Words by Liam McNally.