Yesterday tells the story of Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), a struggling singer-songwriter who feels like his opportunities at success will never come, despite the devotion of his best friend and manager, Ellie (Lily James). However, after a freak bus accident during a mysterious global blackout, Jack awakens to realize that he is the only person alive that remembers the music of the Beatles. As he begins to play songs that the world has never heard by one of the greatest bands in history, Jack quickly gains notoriety as one of the great song-writers of his generation. Although, as his popularity explodes, soon questions mount as to whether he’s doing the right thing—and if he’s going to be exposed.
Directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), Yesterday is a charming love song to the magic of the Beatles’ discography. Fun and lighthearted, the film comes in the middle of somewhat of a renaissance for films about classic rock icons. With films like Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman and more making their way to the big screen in the last 12 months, Yesterday ran the risk of becoming a forgettable entry in the midst of the overflow. However, thanks to an entertaining script that swerves in another direction than other more traditional biopics, Yesterday manages to sing a different tune. Relative newcomer Himesh Patel (Eastenders) is a joy to watch onscreen as the overwhelmed Jack, playing him with both humility and ambition. With a suitable backup band of supporting players including Kate McKinnon, Lily James and, most notably, a hilarious Ed Sheeran, the film weaves a story that is whimsical and enchanting.
Of course, the real star of the film is the Beatles discography itself and Yesterday showcases the talent of the Fab Four in a way that desperately wants to prove that their relevance in today’s music scene. Though one would hardly think that the Beatles had moved into obscurity, it could be argued that their impact isn’t recognized as much by younger fans. As such, Yesterday seeks—almost to a fault—to remind us of the enduring importance of songs such as ‘A Day in the Life’ or ‘Hey Jude’ (or ‘Hey Dude’, as Sheeran suggests). In fact, the film even uses Sheeran, one of today’s biggest stars, to validate the music by stating that he thinks the songs are the best he’s ever heard.
As such, Yesterday speaks to the enduring power of music and its importance in a world looking for modern prophets. While using the Beatles as a backdrop, the film shows the impact of words written by those that have come before and how they continue to resonate in our modern culture. Held in high regard for his song-writing ability, Malik is constantly reminded that his own writings cannot compare to the classics that he’s giving to the world. Interestingly, the film also reinforces this when Malik has the opportunity to finally meet one of the Fab Four. In yet another testament to the words of the previous generation, the unexpected ‘cameo’ speaks to Jack about the power of truth and love in a way that leaves him changed and helps him decide on his future. In a poignant scene, yet again the past informs the present.
The disc release features several notable special features including a surprisingly beautiful alternate ending, featurette on Sheeran’s role and deleted scenes. However, the most fun may be a few performances of Beatles tunes by Patel at Abbey Road Studios in London. By including these simple songs, the disc suitably bookends the sense of reality about the film by moving it beyond the narrative.
Entertaining, engaging and sweet, Yesterday is a feel-good comedy that speaks to the power of love and the value of those that came before. However, in the end, the greatest love song is the film itself, giving the music of the Beatles the power to change the world.
Yesterday is available on iTunes and Blu-Ray beginning Tuesday, September 24, 2019.