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By Lane Gwinn
the Times 

Yesterday: A romantic comedy in a world without The Beatles

 

August 15, 2019



Yesterday is such a charming movie with an (almost) all-Beatles soundtrack that is hard to be too tough on it. So as long as you aren’t a stickler for logic, it is fun ride with an interesting premise. After a worldwide blackout, the Beatles and their music are completely wiped from existence, except in the memory of one man.

Singer songwriter, Jack Malick (Hamish Patel) has been struggling to make a career in music by playing to less than enthusiastic, local audiences while working part-time in a big-box discount-store. Despite the unflagging support from his lifelong friend and manager, Ellie (Lily James), the grumpy musician finally calls it quits after yet another dismal performance to a near-empty venue.

As he is riding his bike home that night, he is hit by a bus when he is distracted by what turns out to be a 12-second, global blackout. Waking up in the hospital, battered and bruised, missing his front teeth, he slowly comes to the realization that he is the only person on earth who knows the Beatles and their music. The rest of the world did not forget, in this post blackout reality, the band never existed.

His friends don’t get his Beatles references, the Internet auto corrects his searches to show him beetles, not the Fab Four, and his own music collection is missing all of their music. To test the theory further, Malick plays ‘Yesterday’ to his friends, including Ellie, and they act as if they’ve ever heard the song and are impressed that he has composed it.

He is finally convinced that no one else has memories of the Beatles or their songs so he decides to use this advantage to restart his career. He feels a responsibility to get the Beatles’ music back out into the world though he presents them as his own.

With the help of Ed Sheeran (appearing as himself) who asks Jack to open for him on tour and Debra Hammer (Kate McKinnon) a shark-like, Hollywood manager, Jack’s career takes off and, sadly, Ellie is left behind. Of course, this is a rom-com and it is only a matter of time before Jack realizes a world with the Beatles is still not complete if it is without love.

British director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire) and screenwriter Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually) managed to secure the licensing for 16 of the most well-known McCartney/Lennon compositions which are the basis of the movie. The songs are convincingly performed by Patel who has a lovely voice.

Besides the songs Jack performs, there are many other songs referenced. Before he is hit by the bus you hear the crescendo from “A Day in The Life.” Jack jokes about Ellie still helping him “when he’s sixty-four.” He also asks that the guitar “weeps” at a recording session.

The music also echoes Jack’s journey throughout the movie. He sings “Carry That Weight” as his guilt increases over his popularity and fame. He is disillusioned when Sheeran suggests an unfortunate song change to “Hey Dude.” He reaches his limit singing “Help” from a roof top and then comes clean to his fans as he also professes love to Ellie by performing “All You Need Is Love.”

Like love, anything worth having must be appreciated and cared for. By the time the movie was over I found myself wanting to go home and listen to all my Beatle’s albums, thankful I’m not living in a world where The Beatles never existed.

 

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