“A world without The Beatles is a world that is infinitely worse.”
Truer words have never been spoken. This infinitely worse world becomes a reality in the new movie, Yesterday, brought to life by Danny Boyle (Steve Jobs, 127 Hours) and the minds of Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Bridget Jones’s Diary) and Jack Barth.
During a twelve second global blackout, Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), an aspiring musician, gets hit by a bus and is knocked unconscious. He wakes up to find that he is the only person that remembers The Beatles. You know, the most famous band in the history of music. Jack finds himself in quite the predicament.
Does he keep the memories to himself as a secret that only he knows about? Or does he use the opportunity to kickstart his career? Because the first option would not make for a very good movie, Jack decides to go with the latter and becomes the biggest musician to ever live – releasing hit after hit. But at what cost? Is fame all that it’s cracked up to be? What’s really important in life? These are some of the questions that Yesterday asks its audience as Jack falls deeper down the rabbit hole.
“… at what cost? Is fame all that it’s cracked up to be? What’s really important in life?”
Before we get too far in this review, I have a confession. I love The Beatles. I don’t just enjoy some of their songs – I love them. Like I have shirts, calendars, posters, vinyls, CDs, movies, keychains, magnets, lunch bags, etc. relating to the band and its members. If I really wanted to, I could open my very own Beatles gift shop full of overpriced knick-knacks. I don’t mention all of this to prove anything. I don’t think liking the greatest band of all time makes me special. In no world is liking The Beatles considered a hot take. Or even a lukewarm take. This is a freezing cold take but I stand by it with every ounce of me.
I feel it is necessary for me to admit all of this because it meant that I knew I would like Yesterday before I went in. I saw the trailer for it and I knew I would love it. Before almost any movie, there are preconceived notions that may lead you to liking or disliking it more than if those biases were not present. I had a bias going in that was stronger than any other movie I have seen up until this point. With all of this being said… Yesterday is an absolute and total delight.
“Yesterday is an absolute and total delight.”
I loved the concept of Yesterday as soon as I first heard about the movie. There are some people and products of pop culture that are so truly ingrained in our collective consciousness that it is seemingly impossible to imagine a world without them. The Beatles are, perhaps, the best example of this. Taking away their music takes away their influence which takes away the musicians and artists that were inspired by them which takes away the musicians and artists inspired by THOSE musicians and artists. The ripple effect that an absence such as theirs would leave is unfathomable. Although this is not fully explored in Yesterday, Jack’s life, which is so thoroughly changed, allows us an entry into that world.
From the moment Jack realizes he is living in an alternate timeline and can rewrite his own history, Yesterday takes you on a journey full of guilt, loss and unexpected fame. All of this set to the tune of classics from the Liverpool legends. The film can be a bit too cheesy at times, but its premise remains interesting. Himesh Patel is a very likable lead. Lily James, who plays Ellie, Jack’s manager and longtime friend, is charming. James and Patel share a ton of chemistry and their relationship, or lack thereof, is something we are invested in. The formulaic nature of the love story leaves more to be desired. Even so, the two stars are charming and you want things to work out for them. The real star of the show is the music.
“The real star of the show is the music.”
From well known hits like “Let it Be” to “All You Need is Love” to less thought of songs like “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” to “Ob La Di, Ob La Da,” Yesterday is a treasure trove of songs that are impossible not to sing along to. Sure, some of the appeal in the movie is thinking, “hey, I know that song!” While this may feel a bit too gimmicky for some, it kept a smile on my face from beginning to end. There was a joy felt throughout the audience I was with that was infectious. The mere thought of hearing the person next to me whisper-singing during a movie makes me uncomfortable. Yesterday holds a power that few movies do – it takes the tendency to be annoyed away and causes you to, instead, sing along with them.
Overall, Yesterday is predictable. It uses its immediately compelling concept to its advantage but combats against the predictability. Between the stars and the music and the surprisingly striking imagery, it has a lot of charm to it that not only causes foot tapping, but encourages it. Yesterday is the feel-good movie of the summer.