Yesterday is a film with some serious pedigree. Written by the legendary Richard Curtis and Directed by Danny Boyle, it imagines a world where The Beatles never happened. Protagonist Jack Malick (Himesh Patel) is the only person who seems to remember the Fab Four and uses his musical talents to reintroduce their music into the world.
The premise of Yesterday is quirky but at its heart, it’s really a love story and a romantic comedy. The focus is on Jack and his childhood friend/manager Ellie (Lilly James) who’ve never quote seemed to cross the line between friends and lovers.
And while the music of The Beatles provides a wonderful sonic backdrop to Yesterday, it falters in the third act and everything doesn’t quite ‘Come Together.’
Jack is a struggling singer-songwriter in Suffolk who’s music career is going nowhere. He played to half empty pubs to people who aren’t listening. Ellie is relentless positive about Jack’s talent and future and continues to push him towards his dreams.
Unfortunately, after a particularly poor showing at a festival — in which Jack plays to all of six people in a tent — he calls it quits and decides to go back to teaching. Riding home, a strange blackout casts the entire world into darkness for 12-seconds and causes Jack to be hit by a bus.
When he recovers, he discovers that everybody in the world has forgotten about The Beatles. Jack uses this to relaunch his career, playing and recording The Beatles’ back-catalogue and passing it off as his own.
The film has true reverance for the music of The Beatles as, although Jack initially struggles, he is discovered by the sheer power of the music he’s “creating.” Invited by Ed Sheeran — playing a hilarious twisted version of himself — to be his support, Jack travels to Moscow, plays ‘Back in the USSR’ and becomes a global sensation.
One Man Only
From here his life turns upside down and Yesterday begins to truly explore what a world without The Beatles would look like. As Jack is tugged to and fro by record executives, family and friends, we see the world through the lens of a man who holds impossible knowledge and through sharing it is able to live his own dreams.
However, the weight of guilt resting on Jack starts to take its toll. Nobody likes his original songs and although The Beatles no longer exist, is he still stealing?
Yesterday seems to tell viewers that they need to be themselves and be true to themselves. Especially in love. And while some of the songs work better in a 2019 context than others, it’s endlessly enjoyable to hear and see them used as this idea of cosmic wonderment of beauty.
For all the laughs and fun in Yesterday the ending ends rather aburptly and not at all satisfactorily. Walking out of the cinema I imagined other possible endings and wondered if perhaps the entire premise meant a satisfying ending was impossible.
As Jack worries about his place the world he visits one of the men who ‘didn’t’ write all of his songs to see what kind of life they led. The cameo is one you expect from the very beginning, but it’s done in such an unexpected way that you can’t help but smile and tear up.
Just a bit.
Yesterday is a lot of fun, a lot of laughs and big on love. It may not stick the landing, but it’s definitely worth your time.
Leo Stevenson attended a screening of Yesterday as a guest of Universal.
Movie title: Yesterday
Director(s): Danny Boyle
Actor(s): Himesh Patel, Lilly James, Ed Sheeran, Kate McKinnon