Written by Richard Curtis
Directed by Danny Boyle
Starring Himesh Patel, Lily James, Ed Sheeran and Kate McKinnon
Synopsis: Jack Malik is a struggling singer-songwriter in an English seaside town whose dreams of fame are rapidly fading, despite the fierce devotion and support of his childhood best friend, Ellie. After a freak bus accident during a mysterious global blackout, Jack wakes up to discover that The Beatles have never existed. Performing songs by the greatest band in history to a world that has never heard them, Jack becomes on overnight sensation with a little help from his agent.
As a Beatles fan, imagining a world where the Fab Four didn’t exist is almost heresy, but I gave this film a shot because the premise sounded really interesting. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed. This film has a lot going for it. It has a likable lead character in Jack. It has a sweet relationship between Jack and Ellie that you hope evolves into more based on their chemistry. There are some genuinely funny moments throughout and the premise is laid out well by screenwriter Curtis and director Boyle.
There is an honesty to Jack (even though he is plagiarizing some of the greatest songs in the world) because he genuinely feels bad about what he’s doing and guilty for passing off the Beatles songs as his own. He has to deal with the draw of fame and stardom while thinking about the fact that his music isn’t good enough according to the world and the industry. Kate McKinnon is hilarious as Jack’s new manager and she is the perfect distillation of both the dark sides of the music industry and the fame/PR machine that drives culture. What makes many of the moments compelling is that in his haste to remember and write as many Beatles songs as he can, the essential emotional core of the songs is gone. That fact is illustrated in an exchange with Ed Sheeran as Jack tries to tell the true story behind the song Hey Jude and Sheeran doesn’t believe him.
That disconnect from the meaning behind the music is a theme that runs throughout the film as people love the songs, but the lack of context removes all the meaning from them. It’s interesting to see that play out in the film, but it did make me less sympathetic towards Jack because there was no real connection between him and the music he was playing. In contrast, the moments between Jack and Ellie are some of the best and that might be what Danny Boyle was going for with the film. Maybe he wanted the Beatles angle to feel more artificial because he wanted the audience to see the reality of Ellie when Jack starts to see it too.
Yesterday is a fun, light and sweet film that music fans, Beatles fans and movie fans. I really enjoyed this film and recommend giving it a view.