A talented young songwriter is down on his luck. He’s played boardwalks, street corners and cafes for the past 10 years, but has had no strike of luck. His best friend turned manager scores him a gig at one of London’s biggest music festivals, only to play to a handful of generous listeners cooling down from the sun in his tent.
One day, that same musician is hit by a bus and a global blackout seems to occur. He plays a Beatles tune to find out he’s the only one in the world who knows the songs of the Beatles.
The Fab Four — John, Paul, Ringo and George — are completely nonexistent. He discovers he can play those highly revered songs and call them his own.
In Danny Boyle’s newest musical fantasy film Yesterday, Jack Malick (Himesh Patel) is that struggling indie-rocker who one day wakes up and discovers he can perform the songs of the Beatles, and call them his own. The Beatles, who have written some of the greatest songs and movie moments of our time, are adored and adored for a reason.
After the tragic accident, Jack returns and is gifted a new guitar by his best friend and manager Ellie (Lily James). He tests the guitar out by singing “Yesterday,” to which his friends are particularly moved. Ellie herself even looks as if she’s moved to tears, asking, “When did you write that?” as the heartfelt lyrics and sincere melodies are just beautiful.
That’s when Jack seems to hit a “songwriting mojo” and begins to go into a frenzy to rewrite and recover all of the Beatles’ classic hits.
The film as a whole is an enjoyable watch and ode to the songs of the Beatles. It’s quite funny and entertaining to see Jack frustrating to remember the next lyrics to “Eleanor Rigby,” and even get the chords and melodies to songs like “A Day In The Life,” “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “Let It Be” and even “You’re Going To Lose That Girl.”
Ed Sheeran makes a warm and welcome appearance to the film, offering a bit of comic relief as Ed is incredibly impressed and in awe of Jack’s knack for songwriting. In a lighthearted “songwriting battle” moment, Ed performs a great and soulful acoustic song. Jack, however, leaves everyone speechless with his heartfelt, mellow “The Long and Winding Road,” to which Ed playfully says, “Yeah, you’re better than me.”
Jack begins to find overnight success and becomes quite the celebrity. But where the film takes a turn from its musical tribute is in its relationship between Jack and his best friend/schoolteacher Ellie. As Jack focuses more on his music and recovering the Beatles, Ellie goes on to live her own life — and, as we find in all truths in music and film, we are nothing without our love.
The relationship explored between Jack and Ellie is sweet and explores the natural idea of being friends for so long — but what comes of it?
The movie provides an entertaining portrait and listen to the music of the Beatles, reimagined by Jack and his friends, but that’s all the movie seems to do. Perhaps I was expecting more of a “coming of age” or real discovery moment — some sort of climax or real tension in the storyline — yet it seemed to lack something.
Lily James and Himesh Patel are great as leads and enjoyable to watch onscreen. Lily is engaging as a fervent best friend and supporter. Himesh has a particular charm and charisma to his downbeat musician. Kate McKinnon even makes an enjoyable appearance as your cliche hard-a**ed money-making manager.
The movie as a whole is a rom-com played to the music of the Beatles. Yet, while the movie keeps reminding us that the Beatles are so great and revered, we don’t quite get those moments through Jack of how and why these songs became so iconic and great. Listeners are just automatically moved, but the real impact of the Beatles didn’t translate to understand why the Beatles have “transcended time.”
But, if you’re looking for a great, enjoyable and lighthearted comedy with some great musical moments with the songs we all love, I’m sure you (as I have) will find something to love.
Yesterday is in theaters nationwide June 28th. Go to yesterdaymovie.com to stay updated.