<pre><pre>Yesterday imagines a world without the Beatles

Welcome to Cheat Sheet, our short breakdown-like reviews of festival films, VR examples and other special events. This review is from the Tribeca Film Festival in 2019. It has been updated throughout the cinema version.


Writers of the alternative universe carefully consider how a historical change could rewrite pop music. In The man in the high castle, where Japan and Germany won the Second World War, Nazi censors rock – & n 39 – roll in their cradle. Wolfenstein, another fantasy about the Axis powers that win the Second World War, has a Nazi alternative to The Beatles – renamed "Die Kafer", with their iconic Abbey Road photo of the pedestrian crossing against a sinister fascist cityscape.

The film by Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis Yesterday also imagines a world where The Beatles have never existed, but it is indifferent to this kind of world willingness. The film is a celebration of the Fab Four that is more focused on fandom than on rock history. Unfortunately that is not the case especially focused on everything. Yesterday is a light-hearted, fairly funny romantic comedy with an excellent soundtrack – but one that is never devoted to its characters, themes & clever premise.

What is the genre?

Yesterday begins as a high-concept comedy that runs with a single weird idea: an inexplicable event has (among other things) removed The Beatles from history and apparently only one man remembers their existence. The filmmakers gradually mingle in a somewhat soft-cutting satire of the music industry, after which they start working on a straightforward story about romance in the small city and the fully anticipated disadvantages of fame.

What is it about?

Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is a struggling musician with a single fan, his manager and childhood friend Ellie (Lily James). After a nasty performance at a local festival, Jack decides to hang his guitar. But a mysterious global blackout hits while cycling home, and he is knocked unconscious in the chaos. He wakes up in a world with a few missing pieces. Pepsi exists, but not Coca-Cola. Saturday Night Live is now recorded on Thursdays. And Jack & # 39; s increasing bewilderment, no one has ever heard of The Beatles.

With a golden opportunity, Jack restarts his career and claims the music of The Beatles as his own. He is soon discovered by the local celebrity Ed Sheeran (played by himself) and looked up by a sociopathic but very capable manager, Mandi (Kate McKinnon). Praised as the greatest singer-songwriter of his generation, Jack is preparing to release an album, but he is increasingly digested by guilt over his deception. To make matters worse, he discovers that Ellie has been in love with him for years, but she cannot leave her life as a teacher to join him in Los Angeles.

Photo: Universal images

What is it really about?

How individual works of art acquire a cultural and historical significance and what remains when that significance is removed. After the blackout, Yesterday plays the contrast between Jack & # 39; s reflexive reverence for The Beatles and the sober skepticism of everyone. His parents interrupt a rendition of "Let It Be" to chat with a neighbor, a friend rejects "Yesterday" as untidy and Jack sputters with the unbelieving indignation of anyone who has just interrogated part of their main cultural canon – until someone softly interrogates points out that he is a little selfish about his work.


These moments perfectly capture the feeling of a painful, ineffable love for a piece of media that nobody else understands. And they are all the more interesting because Jack is not a super fan of the Beatles, just someone who osmoses the songs alongside billions of other people. He is put in the role of defending something that he always takes for granted – and tries to keep it, while avoiding the lyrics of "Eleanor Rigby" and jumping to the well-known choir in frustration.

But Yesterday is a film for Beatles fans, or at least anyone who likes to show Patel a dozen plus versions of their biggest hits. So despite the skepticism of some characters, Yesterday & # 39; s Beatles songs to be imbued with a timeless, mystical power that turns Jack into a celebrity one night.

Strangely enough, however Yesterday implies that the band was essentially not artistically relevant. Pop music, pop culture and the record industry seem virtually unchanged in this world – in fact, the film does the impossible to confirm that Beatles-influenced bands such as Coldplay and Radiohead still exist. To the extent that Yesterday is concerned, the greatest contribution of The Beatles to music was an inspiration for Oasis.

The filmmakers resist extrapolating from everyone of the historical changes they are making, so this suggestion may not be intentional. But it's an extremely weird way to make a Beatles love letter, and it raises unnecessary confusing questions about why the band's songs are so powerful, since characters have apparently listened to similar music for decades.

Photo: Universal images

Is it good?

Yesterday is quick and often funny, especially in his early sections, where he explores Jack's daily life and the rules of his new reality. It uses technology such as smartphones and search engines in a way that feels natural and ensures more efficient stories. McKinnon is a cheerful shark-like opponent, although she is a bit outlined. Patel plays Jack as a charming hopeful yet pragmatic, and he is a good artist who can carry the many musical songs of the film.

But as the focus of the film shifts to Jack & # 39; s relationship with Ellie, his motivations become increasingly unclear. Ellie does not get much personality except that she is a nice and supportive neighbor, and the revelation that she has been in love with Jack since high school – and denies it until the very worst moment – is sadder than sweet. (It becomes even more depressing with the addition of a romantic rival who seems to be consciously aware of his role as a disposable plot device.) There is just no reason for these characters to join, beyond the gray assumption that every man -wife-friendship is based on secret unrequited love.

Boyle and Curtis make a film from alternative history that is not primary about alternative history, which is a fully valid choice. But the central romance of the film is poorly endorsed, and the limp, joke-like world building puts holes in a plot that was fantastic to begin with. Yesterday is a story about the pure and timeless nature of music – but it often comes out more rote than sincere.

What should it be assessed?


Some relatively muffled sexual situations feel like PG-13 material, but we're talking about a movie that is largely composed of a man who produces public-friendly Beatles songs – it's usually just as serious and innocent as & # 39; I Wanna Hold Your Hand & # 39 ;.

How can I actually view it?

Yesterday receives a broad theatrical release on 28 June.