Yesterday

The inconceivable has happened. Struggling singer-songwriter Jack (Himesh Patel) has a terrific fan and manager in Ellie (Lily James), but nothing else. His dismal track record and the complete lack of interest from absolutely everyone else on earth has inspired his recent retirement from the scene. He’s done. Ellie isn’t totally keen on his giving up, but there you have it.

And then a bus hits him. And when he wakes up, the world is a slightly (enormously) different place: The Beatles never existed. They’ve been completely erased from history, and it seems Jack is the only one who remembers them. So he gets down to the business of recalling as many of the songs and lyrics as he can, and starts performing them as his own. And he’s lauded as a hero! Even poor Ed Sheeran feels inadequate in his presence.

He blows up. Turns out, some of those songs still hold up, can still impress our jaded 2019 ears. Yesterday, Hey Jude, Let It Be, Here Comes the Sun. Director Danny Boyle secured the rights to so many Beatles songs that it was easier for Sean and I to name the ones that weren’t included than were – you could make a pretty comprehensive Bingo game out of this if you were so inclined.

But the movie doesn’t touch on other important aspects. Wiping out The Beatles would do much more than negate their own catalogue. They’ve had a profound and immeasurable impact on all the music that’s come after them; pop music simply would not have evolved as it has without their contribution. And yet the movie features Ed Sheeran as himself, a singer-songwriter who names The Beatles as his own primary influence.

Himesh Patel is quite exceptional and an excellent choice for Jack. His voice is velvety and buttery – not an imitation of John or Paul, but one that does them justice, allowing the songs to feel familiar while still letting us hear them again for the first time. Still, despite the film’s obvious charm, it doesn’t quite explore all the juiciest nooks and crannies, nor can it reasonably reach the expectations set by the world’s most important and significant band. The film is a strange mash-up of parallel universe and a rom-com. It makes some strange and distracting choices. But it’s still worth a watch, because let’s face it: it’s hard to go wrong with The Beatles.

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10 thoughts on “Yesterday

  1. Of Movies And Lives

    I’ve watched only the trailers and read some reviews. As much as I love The Beatles’ music, this feels like a very much contrived and ridiculous premise, an excuse to present the Fab Four music to today’s youth. It worked to a degree with ABBA, why not The Beatles? Well, I think they had already tried that with “Across the Universe”. It sucked. If this is a tease for the real thing, what are they waiting for to give us a full major serious film or series of them portraying The Beatles journey? Instead, they are coming up with the great Peter Jackson directing a….documentary about the Let It Be documentary! I’d rather watch The Rutles and Let it Rot!

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  2. tubularsock

    The concept seems interesting, and you can’t go wrong with Beatles’ songs or wiggling in romance but to make it in popular film culture …….. do they blow anything up?

    Tubularsock may have to see this one. Seems like a fun idea and while advancing toward the theater with low expectations the results may be rewarding …… or not.

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  3. ninvoid99

    I’m not seeing this shit. I love the Beatles and Danny Boyle but Richard Curtis is hit/miss and Ed Sheeran sucks. His music is rubbish and he’s a ginger.

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  4. moviemavengal

    I saw it last night and I enjoyed it. I had heard the mixed reviews, and maybe went in with lower expectations. I was surprised that Ed Sheeran had much more than a short cameo, and thought he did well. I agree that music would be very different without the Beatles, but they did have the band Oasis not exist. I thought it was very sweet, and agree that Himesh did the songs justice and was a nice fresh face to watch. Those expecting more than a rom com I guess are disappointed that it didn’t veer off into Sci-Fi explanations for the 12 second blackout, etc.

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  5. mastermixmovies

    I really enjoyed this film, but I do agree that there’s so much more that could have been explored. I was also just a little bit disappointed by the lack of a few noteworthy songs. Hard Days Nights for example. Aside from that I’ll take any excuse to listen to Beatles music.

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  6. Liz A.

    I am rather curious about this one. But you’re right, if there were no Beatles, so much of our current music would be completely different.

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  7. StephLove

    We saw this yesterday. A friend who’s an academic who sometimes writes about popular music asked me on Facebook if it was “bearable” and this is what I said:

    Better than bearable, but knowing your relationship to popular music, I feel compelled to say it’s not a serious exploration of what would have happened to musical history if the Beatles had never existed. There’s a lot left on the table there. And the end is kind of ridiculous. But Kate McKinnon as the agent is worth the price of admission and the leads are appealing and the music is fun.

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