Movie Reviews movies

Yesterday brings The Beatles to modern music with delightful singalongs, questionable fascination

The Danny Boyle-directed feature finds a star in Himesh Patel, but fails to build that superstar status with it’s script.


The idea of The Beatles being erased from minds everywhere, Google search bars included, is an interesting one.

What would the world look like if the Liverpool lads never became the biggest band in the world?

Danny Boyle attempts to answer that question while drizzling in some of the intention behind the songs we hold so near and dear to our lives in a social media seeped world.

In Yesterday, we meet Jack Malik (Patel), a down-on-his-luck singer-songwriter playing small gigs around Lowestoft, England while working at a big box store by day.

His manager and longtime friend Ellie (Lily James) has been by his side through thick and thin: she helps Jack lug around equipment, drives him around, gives him side-eyed glances in-between.

The issue of The Beatles comes into play in a rather fantastical and outrageous way — a global power outage just so happens to occur at the exact moment Jack gets hit by a bus.

After waking up in the hospital, Jack slowly starts to realize that he’s the only one who remembers who The Beatles are.

Jack (Patel) slumming it at Latitude Festival. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

This unexplainable theory brings upon a superhero level sense of responsibility as he is faced with the great task of introducing these timeless songs to a new generation.

When the film finally reaches that apex of success for Jack (a bit of a slow climax), it’s not always the most believable. Perhaps it’s the modern cynic in me (a millennial too, just so you know) that thinks today’s youth wouldn’t be as enthralled as Yesterday perceives them to be.

As big of a Beatles fan that I am, I still have a hard time believing that people would fall heed over heels for that kind of music in a world clogged with overproduced pop and EDM.

But maybe that’s the true magic and wonder of it all: that we would seek satisfying simplicity over manufactured meaning.

And it also doesn’t hurt that Ed Sheeran is the one that’s helping sell Jack to the people. Love him or hate him, Sheeran puts on a playful performance that pokes fun at his image and songwriting chops, even if the part of pop star mentor was originally written for Coldplay’s Chris Martin.

Kate McKinnon as Jack’s overbearing and money hungry manager brings a lot of laughs, a slick Malibu music operator comparable to the manager malcontents of The Beatles heyday.

The real grounding point of Yesterday is the relationship between Jack and Ellie, a welcoming bit of cheese that brings the film full circle to it’s core message: “All You Need Is Love.” Their narrative speaks to the ups and downs of a Lennon-McCartney feature in the best way, due to a shining screen presence from James and the charming blunders of Patel, who can indeed carry a tune.

There are certain plot twists that help the film feel like an original Beatles feature from the 60s, but with a more regurgitated sense of feeling than something with more true intentions.

A particular guest appearance tugs at the heartstrings and speaks to the power of family and love over the power of fame; something that was played a big part in The Beatles’ downfall.

Yesterday may be wrought with a lack of identity and certainty in the modern age, but at least it reminds us of the cultural hole we would have in a world without The Beatles (and Harry Potter, and Coke, etc.) in the most roaring 60s fashion it can muster.

Rating: 7/10

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