“Yesterday” is a movie of love, fame, and of course, The Beatles. It captures a theme that many movies have previously tried to convey: love is worth more than fame and fortune. Though I liked how the initial story was formulated and all, some parts were disappointing. Being a huge fan of The Beatles myself, I will admit that I was a little critical when watching it. But in being so, I did unearth some aspects others would have just overlooked, good and bad.
The story starts with the main character, Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), finishing up a performance at a bar. For ten years now, he has had a pretty miserable musical career, touring various music venues. After his manager, and best friend, Ellie (Lily James), lands him a gig at a big music concert venue in which he plays for about 10 people, he decides to put his musical career to an end, despite Ellie’s disappointment.
That very night, Ellie drops him off where he locked his bike and he heads home. But on his way there, all of a sudden, through a montage of lights going out, the world loses all power. Next thing you know he’s been hit by a bus. He later wakes up at a hospital where Ellie is promptly waiting for him. When he is released from the hospital, his friends throw a party for him in which they give him a new guitar, since his was broken in the crash. They then quite literally beg for a song. He responds by playing the hit Beatles song, “Yesterday.” As he finishes, they ask how he wrote such a beautiful song (gee, I wonder). He then goes Alex Jones level crazy, as he cannot believe that his friends have never heard the song “Yesterday.”
It may seem cliché, but from here the movie’s premise is created. I’ve heard skeptics question the natural aspect of this, asking questions like, “Why did he pick a Beatles song when he was asked?” To that, all I have to say is that for a musician heavily influenced by the Beatles, it only makes sense.
Before I continue, let’s just revisit the fact that in this movie, The Beatles never existed. You would think that the world would be quite different without them, but somehow it isn’t at all. Not only were The Beatles erased, but also Coca-Cola, cigarettes, the band Oasis, and Harry Potter. As if The Beatles weren’t enough for the world to lose, some magical force just expecto patronum-ed four more important parts of popular culture. And I’m certain that the movie missed other stuff that was lost. These facts scared me initially, and for the first 30 minutes (once these things disappeared), I was wondering, “How did this happen?” Nonetheless, I was intrigued.
As for Jack’s rise to fame, it seemed pretty realistic, as far as claims of fame go. At first, his fame was “slow and steady,” but then he was catapulted into glory after appearing at an Ed Sheeran concert. Once Jack became famous, however, my disappointment started to rise. Not only does Jack kiss Ellie in his hotel room, he almost lets her go back to London, but, of course, takes part in a cliché “running to the train to catch the girl” scene that ends with Ellie telling him she can’t be a part of his life.
In an attempt to win Ellie back, he plans to tell the truth about the songs during a concert. He admits to plagiarism and his love for Ellie, while her face is literally taking up the entire jumbotron behind him, and the audience is happy with him for posting his songs online for free. However, this reaction just seems unrealistic. I mean, I know ghostwriters are becoming a bigger thing now (thanks, Em), but this would be like hearing that Drake didn’t write “God’s Plan.” Ellie forgives Jack and they get back together, which made it seem like copying songs was a good thing. Other than that, the ending was nice and Jack continued to spread the love of The Beatles. It really was a “happy ever after in the marketplace... Ob la di, Ob la da...”
Overall, the acting in the movie was pretty good. The characters appeared to show emotions at a reasonable level, and some of the clear over-exaggeration actually helped to make the story relatable. The singing was a little different, in that I wasn’t particularly impressed by Himesh’s singing capability. Though a part of me is just comparing him to the original singers, and no one can copy God’s work perfectly, nonetheless The Beatles.
As for the camera work, I actually found that the angles and shots were quite unique and interesting. They were definitely different, but that presented an unusual experience that I favored.
The cliché aspects of the story were something about the movie that I did not like. Some moments in this movie were just ripped out of one of those 70s romantic novels that smell like libraries. These could have been avoided, but then at the same time, what would replace them? If you like that stuff, though, you’ll like that part of the movie, but I didn’t.
The character development is an attribute that critics keep an eye out for, primarily because it makes the movie seem more natural. Humans change a little bit every day, so it’s only normal that the characters change in a movie like this one. The love between the characters progressed naturally, and the effect that they had on each other did the same.
For the story as a whole, it was a pleasant one. Disregarding all of the painful cliché moments it had, its message of how powerful love can be — no, is — had people leaving the theater with a smile on their face and a better taste for music.
Although “Yesterday” is in no sight of an Academy Award (at least in my eyes), it was not horrible. If you like The Beatles, I encourage you to check it out for yourself. And if you do, we all know what you’ll be listening to that night.