Yesterday (2019)

The legacy of the Liverpudlian rock group known as The Beatles is more than renowned. So many groups were influenced by them, followed in their footsteps, yet half a century on, their tunes are still immensely popular. However, could those anthems exist in a world where The Beatles simply never were? In 2019, a story about a man prospering in a parallel world without the Fab Four ceased to exist, was released, known as Yesterday.

There are other missing elements, like Coca-Cola… It’s probably a good thing that The Beatles don’t exist in Yesterday’s universe, as “He shoot Pepsi” probably wouldn’t be as good of a lyric.

We follow struggling musician Jack Malick, accompanied by his smitten (but platonic) manager Ellie. He has some potential, but the songs just aren’t getting him noticed, and is on the verge of quitting. After banging his head in a traffic accident, he wakes up in a world where The Beatles never existed (among other peculiarities), a world that presents him with a slightly immoral opportunity. Repurposing the Fab Four’s discography as his own (as much as he can remember that is) lands him a ticket to stardom, but he might have to sacrifice a couple of things to get there. Will he eventually discover that love is all you need?

Malick’s searching for Beatles references in a world without them is a fun returning gag.

Off the top, the premise is fascinating enough to fuel relentless discussion about the intricacies of the world without The Beatles. The film does prod and poke into some aspects, but never lets the wider implications get in the way of its rom-com core. Suffice to say there is a lot of charm, with most of it coming from Himesh Patel performance as Jack, offering the same witty delivery that served him well as Tamwar in EastEnders, and doubly so in his film debut here. Yesterday, as you can imagine, certainly marries comedy with it reverence for the group, documented in Jack’s attempts to recreate the Beatles Discography. Seeing him and his friends jam with the hits in a small studio by the train tracks, to seeing his frustrations with his parent’s distraction over the world’s first performance of Let It Be. Yesterday does so in a way that exudes some well-earned joy.

Ed Sheeran showing he can be a good sport in this extended cameo.

The constant dread of being discovered does loom somewhat over our protagonist, and there’s an intriguing plot thread where we learn he’s not the only one who remembers the legacy of the Fab Four. As stated before, however, it doesn’t get in the way of the quaint, yet delightful, love story between Jack and Ellie. Outside that, we also get a glimpse into the evolved aspects of the modern music industry. A look that is more than lightly satirised, with the hyped focus on the marketing and the commercial aspects, getting in the way of the artistry. Even a cameo with James Corden, and extended appearances from Ed Sheeran (who shows, yet again, he can certainly make fun of himself). It’s not just a British love affair, with Kate McKinnon playing shrewd and slick music agent, Debra Hammer, representing all the parts of the recording machine.

Hammer offers a human face to the corporate side of the music industry.

With Yesterday, we have here a combination of two of Richard Curtis favourite things, a uniquely British love story and a celebration of sixties rock. A charming film brought together with some fun casting choices and well-observed insights stop this rom-com from becoming yet another day in the life affair. Some might bemoan the fact that Yesterday skimps on the more interesting sides of the engaging proposition to focus on a tried and tested formula, However, with subtle tweaks, Curtis delivers his trademark style much akin to his other works like Pirate Radio. Even in a world without the Beatles, Yesterday shows that love is all you need.

The love story element is typically Curtis!

If you want more positive reviews delivered to the e-mail box of your choice, you can click on that little text bubble at the bottom of the screen. Do you agree or disagree? or have a suggestion for another pop-culture artefact that needs a positive light shone on it? Leave a comment in the comment box below! But remember to keep it positive!

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