The Beatles (made up of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr) are without a doubt the most influential band of all time. Their music is incredible and is still better than most of today’s music. They revolutionized what rock and pop music sound like. They helped change how music and pop culture are viewed. It is no surprise that they are still loved by people all over the world. The film Yesterday, which released earlier this year, follows the story of a man who discovers that no one else but him can remember the legendary band of The Beatles, and is meant to be a love letter to the band. Was this movie the love letter the iconic musicians deserve, or is it worth forgetting? Let’s dive deeper than a yellow submarine to find out.
Yesterday is about the music of The Beatles, and it absolutely succeeds at showcasing most of their songs. Each time a Beatles song is performed, the film finds a way to match the song’s tone and cause the audience to feel the exact emotions conveyed in that song. Obviously not every Beatles song can be featured, but there are plenty being performed or played in the movie. It presents the music as the art that it is, including showing us the real inspiration behind several of their songs. If you’re a fan of The Beatles’ music, this will be a fun watch for you.
The concept of the film (What would the world be like if the Beatles never existed?) is an interesting one. The Beatles have influenced so much art and have made a massive impact on the world itself. This concept leads to an even more interesting story. Jack being the only one who remembers the Beatles and wanting to make sure the world experiences them is one of the more original stories for a movie I’ve seen in a good while. It makes for a genuinely fun film.
Yesterday is also a genuinely funny movie with a unique sense of humor. Most of the humor is dry and witty, like with the banter between Jack and his dopey friend Rocky, which feels like the type of humor most people have with their own friends. There are also some big laughs for those familiar with various Beatles lyrics. Ed Sheeran has a particularly funny line about changing “Hey Jude” to “Hey Dude.”
There are especially unique techniques the filmmakers used regarding the visuals of the film. A movie like this that has a realistic feel to it does not typically need such extravagant visuals, but they use them here in an impressive manner. There are balloons that float by to create a location heading, which is a nice change from annoyingly flashing huge letters on the screen like some other movies do. One visual that I particularly like is during a new take on the news-story montage cliché. Instead of randomly flashing images of news anchors telling us what happened to skip a chunk of time, Yesterday shows Jack in what appears to be a dream world witnessing this news footage on giant screens. He stands silent, expressing several emotions on his face. It allows us to see his amazement at his situation, the stress of what he feels he needs to do, and the shock that it’s happening to him. Instead of just telling us about what is happening and skipping some time, we actually get to see how it all affects the main character.
The film does an outstanding job at showcasing the conflicted emotions Jack is experiencing, like the guilt of copying someone else’s music, the stress of being the only one able to protect the Beatles’ art, and the heartbreak of pushing his loved ones further away than he wanted. It makes the audience experience the same feelings as we go on this journey with him.
I don’t want to spoil too much, but there are some big surprises throughout the course of the movie. Much of these surprises focus on certain things that would or would not happen if The Beatles never formed. Surprises like these kept the plot from ever getting dull or predictable.
One of Yesterday’s genres is romance. It contains some nice romance scenes involving Jack and Ellie, but it never has as much of the focus as it should be. They have good onscreen chemistry and have some fun moments, but we don’t see much about how they are together outside of their love of music and that they both went into teaching. Ellie is one of Jack’s biggest supporters, but we never see how they would really be as a couple. What would they do when they spend time together? How do they feel about each other’s quirks? There’s a good romance between them, but it’s undeveloped and does not get much screen time. There’s nothing especially bad about it, we just needed to see a lot more of it since this is considered a romance movie.
There is almost no explanation as to what happened to cause people to forget about The Beatles. It just happens randomly. It doesn’t take away from the story at all, but it would have been nice to find that out, especially since the scene it happens in is a little odd and includes a world-wide power outage. We see Jack get hit by a bus when it happens, but how does that cause him to be unaffected by whatever is affecting everyone else? There are several famous things that never existed other than The Beatles, like Coca-Cola, Harry Potter, and cigarettes, but there is no attempt by Jack to do anything about them. The world never remembers these things by the end, so Jack has to live on with the torture of being the only one who remembers, which is odd for an otherwise happy ending.
There are a couple of celebrities, mainly Ed Sheeran and James Corden, who play themselves in Yesterday. I enjoy when celebrities do things like this. It gives them a chance to parody themselves. Unfortunately, Paul and Ringo do not appear despite being referenced.
Ed Sheeran’s wife also makes a brief appearance as a flight attendant on his private jet. It must have been fun for them to work together on set.
Yesterday is a beautiful love letter to The Beatles and their art. It’s funny, emotional, and has some surprising twists and turns throughout. It’s absolutely charming and is a delight to experience. There are definitely some areas, like Jack and Ellie’s relationship and what caused The Beatles to be forgotten, that could have used some more focus, but it’s a celebration of the music of one of the greatest bands of all time and is a perfect viewing experience for any Beatles fan. You’ll have fun, feel some strong emotions, and get several classic songs stuck in your head with this one.