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My attraction toward films with musical overtones continues. The movie Yesterday, which released last weekend, is not a music biopic. Unlike Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, Yesterday features music from a particular genre and time period, without focusing on the stories behind the artists.
After seeing several previews, I was intrigued by the film’s premise. What if everyone in the world forgot who the Beatles were, except for one man? I deliberately avoided reading anything about the storyline. Instead, I got myself to the theater as soon as I could, to see how this fantastical story turned out.
This film dips into multiple genres including comedy, musical, romance and fantasy. It stars Himesh Patel, Lily James, Joel Fry, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Ed Sheeran, Meera Syal and Kate McKinnon. Yesterday, directed by Danny Boyle, carries a PG-13 rating for mild suggestive content and language, and has a run time of 1 hour and 56 minutes.
What If No One Knew Who the Beatles Were?
Jack Malik (Patel) is following his passion. Since junior high school, when he won a talent contest, Jack has pursued his dream of making it in the music industry. His childhood friend, Ellie (James), manages his would be career. She sets up gigs and encourages Jack to keep going, even when he feels like giving up.
However, to Jack it seems that his dreams are nothing but wisps of smoke that are rapidly fading away.
The night that he calls it quits, after a poor turnout for a performance, something magical happens. On the way home, Jack is hit by a bus during a brief but bizarre power outage that affects the entire planet.
He quickly realizes, after leaving the hospital, that no one knows who the Beatles are. Strumming his new guitar, and singing a few lines of Yesterday, Jack is astonished when his friends enthuse over the new piece he’s written. When he tries to give credit for the song to its rightful owners, his friends look confused.
Google searches come up empty when he looks for info about John, Paul, George and Ringo. Somehow the band and its legendary collection of songs have not just disappeared, they’ve never existed.
Capitalizing on a Golden Opportunity
The Beatles may not exist, however the lyrics and melodies to the songs remain in Jack’s head. He begins to perform songs that are familiar only to him. The once struggling musician suddenly finds himself receiving the appreciation and attention he long sought.
From his own parents (Syal and Bhaskar) to singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran (Sheeran) to his pushy new manager from the US, Debra Hammer (McKinnon), Jack becomes a big deal. As he frantically jots down all the Beatles’ lyrics that he can recall, recording contracts are offered and performances booked.
Jack pulls together enough Beatles songs for his first album. He upgrades his appearance, at Debra’s insistence. His parents express surprise and pride over his new found popularity. And after a heart wrenching talk with Ellie, Jack leaves her and heads out with his friend Rocky (Fry) on a whirlwind world tour to promote the upcoming musical release.
It’s everything Jack dreamed about and hoped for in his career….or is it?
My Thoughts on Yesterday
I loved this sweet and funny film. This is a movie to sit back and simply enjoy. There aren’t any stories about how the Beatles’ songs came to be or glimpses into the Fab Four’s personal lives. No, this is a story that explores a world where the Beatles never formed as a band and where no one knows the songs “Let it Be” or “Yesterday”. No one, that is, except Jack.
Himesh Patel portrays Jack beautifully. A newcomer to films, Himesh brings a fresh sound to familiar tunes in an earnest and somewhat understated way. He sings beautifully and really does play the guitar and piano during the movie.
I can feel Jack’s discouragement as gig after gig produces less than satisfactory results. Anyone who has ever worked hard to manifest dreams can identify with Jack’s angst and feelings of inadequacy as his way to fame seems blocked.
And, it is understandable how such an enormous opportunity to realize those dreams cannot be ignored.
The question during the movie shifts from Is it wrong to take credit for someone else’s work? to Should such an incredible collection of music disappear forever? Those are great questions to grapple with.
What is the Cost of a Dream?
Ultimately, Jack must decide what his responsibilities are, to himself, to his friends, to the world…and to a group of musicians that no one is aware of.
With 17 songs from the Beatles and some surprising twists in the film, Yesterday is fun to watch…and listen to. Humor and tenderness are sprinkled liberally throughout the story and several great lines of script appeared to be directed at me.
I took to heart Ellie’s words to Jack, when he threatened to quit music and get a teaching job. She reminded him that any energy he devoted to teaching took away from the energy he had to create songs and music. I love that reminder that what we focus on matters, and energy flows where our attention goes.
Beatles fan, romantic comedy fan or fantasy fan…Yesterday delivers.
Pick up the amazing Yesterday movie soundtrack by clicking on the photo below:
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