Yesterday is a song that many people know and love by a band that just as many, if not more people adore. But what if you were suddenly the only one that still remembers their existence? This is the situation Jack Malik (Himesh Patel, EastEnders) finds himself in.
A Strange Accident
After his friend Ellie (Lily James, Cinderella) managed to score a performance in a small tent at a big local music festival, Jack gave up on music. However, on his way home there was a global blackout. During this blackout, Jack got hit by a bus, sending him to the hospital. Almost immediately he starts noticing that something is wrong. His friends don’t recognize references to Beatles song which only becomes weirder when he gets home. Back home he gets a couple of gifts, including a new guitar. When he started playing yesterday, no-one seemed to know it. When Jack went to his computer he realized that his fears were real. The Beatles had never existed.
With this knowledge he picks up his guitar once more and starts playing again. With these timeless songs he eventually rises to fame. He travels around the world for concerts and produces new songs. In the meantime he struggles with his friend and now former manager – Ellie. Tension grows higher between the two since Jack doesn’t have the time for Ellie anymore.
Something Old in Newer Times
What first peaked my interest was seeing how modern times would impact Jack’s rise to fame with these classic songs . Personally – I think they took an interesting approach to this. Jack obviously didn’t instantly become a star, even with the songs from the Beatles. Nobody really cared in the beginning, when he was just playing in (small) bars. But then he’s heard by a guy with a small rail-side recording studio. From there he gets some small interviews and he get’s noticed by Ed Sheeran. His rise to fame has started. He gets picked up by a new manager, plays in various concerts and goes on different shows. There´s a subtle focus with this film on the effect of social media on people´s rise to stardom.
The inclusion of Ed Sheeran might be a bit odd for some people. But I actually think it works very well in the story that’s being presented. As he’s a musician who’s become widely known in mainstream music. He serves as a milestone to see the progression of Jack in his carrier. From Ed just approaching Jack, to Jack becoming more popular and almost completely overshadowing Ed.
They also try to comment on the state of music and the control companies can have over individual artists. This is shown in song titles being changed to appeal to modern audiences. Besides that some songs get outright cancelled and the albums are being completely altered.
Where is this going?
Despite the interesting premise, I feel like this movie doesn’t know what to do at various points in the movie. First of all, a lot of jokes in this movie fall a bit flat and are oddly mean spirited. Furthermore, many jokes feel like they drag on way too long. For example when conversations are constantly interrupted because someone is looking for pickles. The filmmakers suddenly decide to have the names of the place they go to appear in giant letters. This serves no real purpose as it’s already quite clear where they’re going. In addition it also looks kind of bad.
Yesterday also doesn’t set very clear rules in it’s story. For instance, throughout the movie Jack discovered that a few specific other things don’t exist in this world. It’s never explained why those things don’t exist and are only used for some jokes. Okay – 2 of those jokes admittedly made me laugh. Also, the movie never properly explains how Jack actually appeared in the world where the Beatles never existed. I’m willing to suspend my disbelieve for the main premise of the movie. But all of a sudden there are 2 other characters introduced that still know The Beatles. As a result it causes me to question if there’s even anything behind it. Sadly – it’s never told. They’re just also there but do nothing of importance.
Not every missed point is necessarily bad though. For instance, Jack doesn’t remember the lyrics to all the songs, which makes sense. Because of this he spends a lot of time trying to recall the lyrics to some songs. Often coming back to him after someone says a certain phrase. To accomplish this he also visits the places that inspired various song, like Strawberry Field and Penny Lane.
This is a concept I found very interesting. Sadly it is under utilized. This is most noticeable with the song Eleanor Rigby. Jack spends a lot of time trying to remember it with many scenes dedicated to it. However; it never forms any real problem and that specific song isn’t even fully played.
The use of music to emphasize certain parts of the story should also come as no surprise. Although they do have a bit of that, specifically in fantastic use of the song; Help! and Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da, where the texts help strengthen the story. The amount of times this is done feels a slight bit lacking to me. I feel the movie could have really benefited if some of the unnecessary scenes where replaced with some more songs.
Finally, later on in the movie Jack gets visions of him being found out and exposed as a fraud. In my eye this is a great way of showing the inner struggle and guilt that Jack faces. For some reason even this is only done twice in the movie. I think is a huge shame and could’ve added more to his character. It would also have been a great lead up to the finale.
Despite the flaws, I feel like the premise of the is strong enough to at least provide a strong foundation. I found the acting to be solid overall. Although the singing is not comparable to the original, it really wasn’t bad. The story itself had some strong moment. There´s one particular bit near the end being a special treat for Beatles fans. The finale also served as a wonderful conclusion. It ties up the story in a way that felt satisfying and believable. Overall – I think Yesterday is a fun movie worth watching. Even if your not that big into the Beatles. In my eyes the film primarily suffers from trying to do too much. But this does not take away the fun that is created by Yesterday.
Amazing concept, Alright movie.
Yesterday is a movie with an interesting concept – namely what would happen if The Beatles never had existed. The main plot, revolving around the bond between Jack and Ellie as Jack quickly rises in fame, is quite well executed. However, Yesterday suffers from some big problems. Including weird choices in effects at various parts of the movie as well as bringing up new plot points but never doing anything interesting with it. If you’re looking for a new masterpiece, I think you won’t find it here, but if you’re just looking for a fun, enjoyable movie I think Yesterday will fill that role.