Editor’s note: this review contains spoilers.
Imagine a world without the Beatles. A world in which staples from “Eleanor Rigby” to “Here Comes The Sun” have fallen off the face of the earth in the blink of an eye. There are three people left on the entire planet who remember what is missing while the rest of the population has no idea what they’ve lost. “Yesterday,” directed by Danny Boyle, paints a picture of a world without the legacy of the Beatles through the romantic comedy genre.
When a blackout strikes worldwide, an unsuccessful singer-songwriter named Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is hit by a bus. The blackout resets the entire world, erasing many cultural artifacts from Coca Cola to Harry Potter, as if they never even existed.
After frantically asking many of his friends and family and the internet , Malik soon discovers he is the only person who remembers the Beatles. Malik blows up as a song-writer with Beatles hits penned as his originals, from“Yesterday,” to “I Saw Her Standing There.” Kate McKinnon guest stars as his band manager Deborah Hammer, along with Ed Sheeran as himself, who convinces Malik to rewrite “Hey Jude” as “Hey Dude.”
Following in the footsteps of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Rocketman,” “Yesterday” takes advantage of the current cinematic crave for nostalgia. The difference between “Yesterday” and other films in both the romcom genre and the new fad of rock and roll nostalgia films is it certainly holds a fantasy based origin considering the alternate universe it takes place in. Considering the film serves as an addition to both the romcom genre and the current culture of music-centric films, it definitely stands alone as a rare mix of romcom, fantasy and rock and roll nostalgia.
Though the movie is based on the Beatles’ music, the majority of the film discusses Malik’s love life instead of the duty he donned upon himself to bring the Beatles music back to life. In the beginning of the film his mission is solely for personal gain but towards the end it becomes a cathartic mission. A small cameo of John Lennon as an elderly gentleman alive and well into his 70’s alludes to the band’s legacy.
Malik rarely reflects on the true weight that the Beatles’ had on the world. This is a critical deviation from other nostalgic rock films, as the music is a secondary plot point to the romance.
The love story between the newly famous Malik and his longtime best friend and former manager Ellie (Lily James), plays into the traditional and overdone romcom trope. Boy meets girl, boy doesn’t find girl interesting, boy becomes famous and they live happily ever after.
“Yesterday” dances the line between full-blown romcom and film dedicated to the Beatles fame throughout the entire film though it certainly leans more towards romcom. While the love story is incredibly charming, the film needed a more in-depth focus on the Beatles influence. Possibly having more cameos of the Beatles’ members and a deeper reflection from Malik of just how revolutionary the Beatles were for their time would have added more depth to the music side of this story. After all, it is the Beatles’ raw and insane talent that made Malik famous.
When Malik eventually comes clean to the world and admits he didn’t write the songs that made him famous, his appreciation for the Beatles is supported by the world. Although no one will ever remember the Beatles, Malik’s covers allow the songs to live on, forever preserving the entrancing melodies and poetic lyrics that made the Beatles fast rising stars.
Despite the clichéd romantic aspect, “Yesterday” is a fantastic tribute to the wonder that is the Beatles, with an endearing love story. It definitely helps to walk into this film already a fan of the Beatles, or the musically dedicated aspect may not be as impactful. For someone who isn’t a fan of the Beatles or a lover of music in general, a world without the Beatles is a world that may not ever affect them. The romcom centralized plot is sweet and can be enjoyed by all, though in order to love the movie as much as many do, it helps to love the Beatles too.