'Yesterday': A Fanciful Tribute to the Enduring Power of the Beatles' Music

Himesh Patel and Lily James star in the Beatles-inspired comedy Yesterday (Photo credit: Working Title Films and Universal Pictures

This is turning out to be quite a summer for moviegoing fans of legendary British music. First Rocketman, the whimsical biopic about the life of Elton John, was released to general critical acclaim, and now Yesterday, a comedy that imagines a world that has forgotten The Beatles, is playing at a theater near you. 

So on its opening weekend, I decided to see for myself if Yesterday was as promising as the trailer made it appear. And as a general warning, the details regarding a case of very specific mass amnesia in the film should not be examined too seriously or you’re bound to find issues with the story. However, if you go along for the ride in this fanciful tribute to the enduring power of the Beatles’ music, I have a feeling you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. And here’s why.

It has an intriguing premise

One day Jack Malik is a struggling singer/songwriter on the verge of giving up his dream and the next he’s the only person on earth who remembers the Beatles song catalogue. The briefest of global power outages has apparently erased the existence of the Fab Four from the collective consciousness of the planet. (Remember: Just go with it!)

At the moment of the blackout, Jack was hit by a bus. Once released from the hospital, his best friend tries to cheer him with a replacement for his guitar that was smashed in the accident. Jack decides to break it in with that old chestnut, "Yesterday", which amazingly none of his friends have ever heard. (Perhaps being knocked unconscious during that Y2K-like event may explain why the Beatles still exist for him.)

 

Now Jack’s dilemma becomes whether he should revive his career by claiming John, Paul, George and Ringo’s work as his own. And if he does, is he prepared for the demands of the modern music industry?

It’s got Beatles music (and a little Ed Sheeran too)

Himesh Patel, who plays Jack, performs over a dozen of the best loved Beatles’ tunes from "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and, of course, "Yesterday" to "Hey Jude" and "Let It Be". And even more impressively, Himesh - who until this film was best known for a nine-year stint on the British soap opera EastEnders - actually sang and played guitar live during the filming.

 

As for Ed Sheeran, he plays a famous singer/songwriter named Ed Sheeran who seeks Jack out in the early stages of his skyrocketing career. His mentoring is well-intentioned, but he soon discovers even he can’t compete with “Jack’s” songwriting genius.

It’s also a love story

Yesterday was written by the king of British rom-coms, Richard Curtis. The writer of such hits as Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill can’t be expected to create a screenplay void of a sentimental, feel-good love story, now can he?

It’s very evident from the beginning of the story that Jack’s childhood friend, gig manager and all-around cheerleader Ellie (Downton Abbey alum Lily James) is hopelessly in love with him. And while Jack appreciates and loves her dearly, he seems clueless to the very obvious fact that Ellie is perfect for him. When Jack finally wakes up to his feelings for Ellie, he fears it may be too late. 

 

My advice is that when it comes to this movie, all you need is love, music and a suspension of disbelief. Yesterday, which is directed by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, is in theaters now. Do you think you'll buy a "ticket to ride" or just "let it be"? Let's discuss in the comments!