Review: Yesterday Sells Us That One Man Has the Power to Erase Pop Culture?
2/5 Yellow Submarines
**Spoilers for the movie Yesterday so proceed with caution.**
I wanted to love Yesterday so badly, but unfortunately, I came out of it with a million questions and a dislike for most of the movie’s “new” Beatles covers. Which is a shame, because I’m a huge fan of the Beatles and was revved up to see the film. Let’s get into the problems with the Danny Boyle-directed movie: it posits the fantastical idea that none of us care about the Beatles anymore and that Ed Sheeran is our second-greatest songwriter of all time. Nope, you totally read that right.
When Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) gets in an accident, he realizes that he’s the only one who remembers the Beatles and their music, and he feels as if the world needs those songs again. For me, the only thing I really cared about was thinking of the first time I heard these songs and what it meant to me as Jack reintroduces them. I didn’t care about Jack’s rise to fame and I didn’t care about his worries. This movie also does a pretty bad job of explaining why Jack is the one who is left with this power of remembering certain “classics” of the world. Other lingering questions: I also don’t understand why Coke doesn’t exist in his world anymore? Like to what extent did he erase things? Has Paul McCartney vanished?
A love story at its core, Yesterday is really about Jack realizing that his dreams of being a rockstar are not his true calling. What is his true calling, you ask? Being a teacher and falling in love with Ellie (Lily James), whose entire life is centered around Jack and getting Jack to love her. No, I’m serious, she has no real stakes other than that. It’s not a great romantic setup.
I think that Yesterday was trying to bring a love story to the world of the Beatles. But then they veered out of their way to make it very much not about the music of the Beatles, but rather two characters who only have one defining characteristic each (Jack wants to be a rock star, Ellie wants Jack to love her). I feel deflated about the movie because I am fully prepared to try and love anything to do with the Beatles. Instead, I was left confused, thinking of all the songs they didn’t bother including, and asking myself why I suddenly wanted to go home and watch Across the Universe instead.
Unfortunately, the most disappointing thing about Yesterday is that Ellie is a character who could have been so much more than just a woman who lets her work as a teacher be her whole personality—that is, when she’s not dedicating all her time and energy to Jack, a man who never showed interest in her until she pointed out that she’s been in love with him for 20 years.
Anyway, Jack also erases all of Oasis and their music so we don’t have “Wonderwall” either.
Still. It’s the Beatles and their music, so there were times when I was moved accordingly, and I cried over a surprise moment where a very much “alive” John Lennon shows up. Then I remembered that John Lennon has left behind an extremely problematic personal legacy, so I felt conflicted. Also, Jack Malik describes how “Hey Jude” was created and leaves out a huge chunk of the story where John Lennon was absolutely terrible to his son Julian Lennon, hence why Paul McCartney wrote the song for Julian.
If you like the Beatles, you’ll like Yesterday‘s end credits where you get to hear the actual “Hey Jude” and also any movie filled with random references to their songs isn’t all bad. But I wish I had come away with more from Yesterday and characters that I could have believed in.
(image: Universal Pictures)
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