Yesterday is a powerful tale of the title character’s struggle to survive AIDS long enough to see her young daughter Beauty start school. Yesterday – named by her father because, in his opinion, yesterday was much better than today – lives for her young daughter. Her husband works in the mines of Johannesburg and carries a deadly secret, which, by the start of the film, has already entered his wife’s bloodstream. Through it all, Yesterday keeps bright spirits and a smile across her face. She only loses it when…she has to, and it’s through her powerful attitude the audience connects with the central plight, and pulls for her to in some way find peace out of turmoil.
The story is often heartbreaking, and never focuses too tightly on the behavioral causes of the disease, thus illustrating the horror of what AIDS is in a manner that everyone can connect with and feel sympathy for. The point of Yesterday is to illustrate that a disease with so many heavily attacked stigmas attached to it claims plenty of victims, who are complete Innocents, and should be fought to the fullest extent of our capabilities. It is without doubt a horrible disease and claims as many victims like Yesterday as it does the junkies with their dirty needles or the chronically promiscuous with their alley-cat morality and lack of regard for others’ feelings. It affects flesh-and-blood people of all kinds, and Yesterday personalizes the disease in such a way you have to care, so long as a heart beats in your chest. You can’t look away, and the film is so touching you won’t want to.
Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, Yesterday looks gorgeous. The camera loves these settings, as dank, desolate, and poverty-ridden as they might seem. Contrast is particularly convincing with deep but not overly rendered black levels. The colors are rich and vibrant for such a melancholy film, and flesh tones are spot-on. Last but not least, grain and dirt are non-existent. All these factors combine to produce a film, which looks more expensive than it really is.
The Zulu Dolby Digital 5.1 track sports a haunting score and good attention to detail. The score resembles the pangs of a dying man, and if that effect isn’t apparent to you at the beginning, it will be by the end. The rest of the speakers capture the sad subtleties of such a beautiful yet harsh landscape, especially in Yesterday and Beauty’s frequent walks to the doctor. The frequent dialogue (it is somewhat talky) is easy to make out as well, and when there is need for bass, the speakers function with the right oomph. Nothing is overdone, and nothing falls short.
Director Roodt offers an audio commentary of good interest. I do like the idea of audio commentaries as staples to the special features programs for each new DVD release. Of course, you shouldn’t have to rely on them for information into the intentions of the film. That should all be apparent in the visuals, and I think, for the most part, Roodt succeeds in making his commentary less of a necessary supplement and more of an informative piece. Unfortunately, it’s the only bonus material provided.
Yesterday is a film, whose entire release window goes by without hardly a second’s glance from the mass viewing public. While not everyone will be interested in it based on subject matter alone, the film still says what it needs to say in a powerful way. It’s like a rock star giving the performance of a lifetime to a room full of disinterested people, and that’s a shame because it really does deserve Oscar attention, more-so than most of what the Academy tends to honor. But all gripes aside, you should really give this film a look. Its only soapbox in a film that could have potentially had several is that it preaches greater understanding and sensitivity to those suffering unjustly. And that’s a soapbox on which the whole world should be willing to stand.
Special Features List
- Commentary by: director Darrel James Roodt