For any music lover, imagining a world without The Beatles seems very difficult to comprehend. Even if you aren’t necessarily a fan, the Fab Four along with many other music visionaries during that era have a timeless legacy that is impressive and still holds up even in today’s fast-paced industry.
“Yesterday” explores this unimaginable thought of living in a world without The Beatles and blends this unique framework with a classic romantic comedy interpretation. Director Danny Boyle –– best known for 2008’s “Slumdog Millionaire” –– not only reminds the audience of the Beatles’ worldwide impact, but also taps into a satirical outlook on the music industry’s questionable methods of success.
Stepping into his film debut, Himesh Patel plays struggling singer-songwriter Jack Malik. Small gig after small gig, Jack realizes his dreams are slowly dwindling away and decides to quit making music despite having the unconditional support from his childhood best friend, Ellie –– played by Lily James. The movie’s premise revolves around a bus accident accompanied by a global blackout, which leaves Jack with a few teeth knocked out. Little does he know, this blackout comes with much more.
After recovering from the accident, Jack goes out with his friends and ends up performing a rendition of the classic tune “Yesterday.” With much confusion as to who wrote the song, Jack is dumbfounded as he realizes his friends are suddenly oblivious to The Beatles. The scene hilariously depicts the lonesome feelings of being obsessed with something that no one knows about. However, because it’s about a group as mainstream as The Beatles, the scene is even more amusing. When Jack hops on Google and discovers his search keeps bringing him back to actual beetles, he understands his friends weren’t actually pulling a prank on him.
As fraudulent as it sounds, Jack begins to see this as a shining opportunity to revive his dream of being successful as a musician. He begins to perform and record hits such as “Here Comes the Sun” and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” which catapults him into being an overnight sensation. All of a sudden, he becomes Ed Sheeran’s opening act and signs with a big time manager –– played by “Saturday Night Live” standout Kate McKinnon. Even though his dreams are on the rise, Jack struggles with the guilt of fooling everyone around him and on top of that, has to comprehend the discovery of his best friend falling in love with him.
With any typical movie about a musician, there’s always that underlying theme about the struggles of fame. “Yesterday” buys into this cliche, but focuses more on the unfortunate realities of the music industry with a satirical twist. Playing into a wacky manager that sees her client merely as a product rather than a person, McKinnon’s character is the reason to see this movie. Her shenanigans of making sure Jack has a superstar “look” and even trying to get Jack to change some lyrics to seem more trendy are laughable, but sadly, actually happens to vulnerable young artists. McKinnon was able to get this message across through her impeccable timing and proved how effective comedy is in reflecting on societal truths that are often uncomfortable for most to discuss.
As far as the love story in the movie goes, it is pretty predictable. Without the immensity of The Beatles pushing the film to the forefront, it would seem like any other romantic comedy. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing though. Sometimes, people just want a breezy film without too many complexities and “Yesterday” fits right in that category. Also, it’s never a bad idea to have a band that has written some of the most famous love songs associated with a cute, romantic film.
With satirical adaptations of the music industry and a sweet love story aside, this movie could expose The Beatles’ music to a younger audience –– much like this year’s Oscar-winning “Bohemian Rhapsody” did for Queen. Although “Yesterday” isn’t a biopic, the emergence of creating movies about musical legends should carry on because it is crucial for younger generations to recognize the people who have paved the way for their favorite artists.
Hopefully in the future, we will have plenty of films that highlight the contributions of more of these legends — and not just the extremely popular ones. Although it is wonderful that The Beatles are still being recognized for their incredible musicianship, there are a lot of underrated visionaries in a multitude of genres who haven’t gotten their proper tribute in the mainstream world. Whether it’s a biopic or a unique idea like “Yesterday,” all of the legends need to have their time back in the spotlight.
Rylee Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @rybyjackson