RICHARD Curtis has a talent for marrying English daftness with grand, romantic visions.

He pulled this trick off brilliantly in 1994's Four Weddings And A Funeral - one of the best English films of the past 40 years - and has tried numerous times since to repeat this most idiosyncratic approach.

Love Actually and Notting Hill stepped into the same territory, and he’s doing it again with his new venture with director Danny Boyle, Yesterday, in which, due to some cosmic craziness, struggling singer-songwriter Jack Malik ( played by Himesh Patel) becomes the only person in the world to be able to remember The Beatles back catalogue, and finds himself in a Faustian dilemma, which occupies the centre of the film.

Should he become a huge success with money and fame, or settle for something altogether more normal? In a way, it’s a false dichotomy. Ellie, a gorgeous English rose played by the yummy Lily James, is Jack’s biggest supporter, urging him to keep going. She carries his guitar and gets him a gig at Latitude. (He plays to some prancing kids in a mostly empty tent. I’ve been there, I felt his pain.)

But, later, she suddenly offers an ultimatum: if he goes to the USA and accepts the rewards of stardom, she’s not interested. Drama imposes these false choices.

Additionally, why didn’t Jack fall for Ellie from the start? She is completely lovely. Then there’s the set-up that leads one man to remember The Beatles, and nobody else to. Inexplicably, the world has forgotten about Coke, smoking and Harry Potter too.

These grumbles aside, it is a really engaging story, with a great ensemble cast that takes in James Corden, Meerta Syal and Sanjeev Baskar. Asian actors are on the rise: the upcoming Blinded By The Light also will feature actors from a Pakistani or Indian background. Kate McKinnon, as Jack’s faintly satanic agent, is caustic and funny.

There are some good musical gags: in a world without The Beatles, there can be no Oasis. And when Jack‘s sidekick Rocky (a loveable Joel Fry) meets Ed Sheeran, he offers some advice: "I’d leave the rapping to the brothers if I were you." laughed out loud at this point.

Sheeran comes off as a good sport, willing to laugh at himself, and conceding he cannot compete with the Beatles' remarkable catalogue. The moment, near the end, when somebody associated with The Beatles appears is genuinely moving. There’s a glimpse here of an alternative reality, the universe next door. Beatles fans will love the ingenuity of this.

Curtis’s vision is romantic and sometimes a little saccharine.The ending is lovely, if  sugary: family ties, work and commitment trump global success. Well, perhaps, but does Curtis really believe that? Or does it just make for another screen triumph that will result in millions of pounds of revenue? Does that make Curtis a hypocrite? Whatever. Take it for what it is, and it’s great fun. I laughed and cried.

Review by Miles Salter, York musician and storyteller