What if The Beatles didn’t exist? or Would The Beatles songs be popular if they were released today? Definitely a couple of questions that people think about. The movie Yesterday, directed by Danny Boyle explores this and incorporates a love story in it. Want to find out if it’s worth watching? Keep on reading. Warning: Spoilers (obviously).
The timing of this movie’s release was perfect for events going on in my life. In a few days, I’ll be going to Liverpool. The last time I went to Liverpool was back in 2013 so it will be fun to go again and see some new things.
Anyway one trailer stood out to me, Blinded By The Light, a movie about a teenager in the 80s who gets into Bruce Springsteen and it changes his life. Definitely looking forward to that. You can find the trailer below:
Onto the movie. It tells the story of Jack Malik (played by Himesh Patel), a former teacher who left his job to perform, but his music career is pretty much nonexistent so he has to work a job at a warehouse like shop to pay the bills. His only “break” (if you can call it that) was playing Latitude Festival in the Suffolk tent to a small crowd of old people, his friends, and some rugrats. He felt discouraged and like he’s going to go nowhere. It’s the end of a long and winding road, he tells his friend/crush/manager Ellie. She tells him that miracles happen, a bit of foreshadowing. He doesn’t believe it and he bikes home.
Suddenly, the power goes out for a moment globally. As he’s biking home, he experiences bad luck, the lights shut off and a bus hits him because the driver couldn’t see him. Jack ends up in hospital, injured and losing two of his front teeth. It’s a miracle in disguise though and he notices this when he asks Ellie if she will be there for him when he’s 64. She’s confused and he says it’s a Beatles reference. Beatles who?
Jack is dumbfounded and comes home and googles The Beatles only to find beetles. John Paul George and Ringo? Google gives him Pope John Paul II. He searches his record collection and there’s Bowie and The Black Keys, but no sign of The Beatles. No Oasis either. Well I guess that would be the case too since they were clearly influenced by The Beatles.
Randomly, Coca Cola and cigarettes disappear too. I thought this was funny and maybe would make a better world. Those things aren’t good for you.
This scene was hilarious and brought back memories of me in secondary school with my fellow Beatles obsessed friend and this one girl we called “Mascara Girl” screaming at us “ewww you like bugs!” I’m not sure if Bowie, The Black Keys, and many others would be who they are without The Beatles, but it’s a movie. It’s not that deep.
It turns out that Jack and a couple of others, who you’ll see later on in Moscow and Liverpool, are the only ones with any memory of The Beatles’ songs. However, it’s not a perfect memory and he has to try to piece the songs together again. That’s a task because they have such a varied, prolific discography considering how their recording career was not even a decade. He puts all the songs he can think of on post it notes and uses his music talent to reinterpret the songs in his acoustic way.
He plays Yesterday for his friends and they are wowed. He plays “Let It Be” for his parents and their friends and they are blown away. Suddenly this guy Gavin with a recording studio on top of a railway station called Tracks on The Tracks gives Ellie his business card and wants to record Jack, who he thinks has a lot of potential.
This recording session results in a demo that he distributes to customers at work. Someone at a local TV station in Suffolk is impressed and invites him to be a guest on the show. Not exactly overnight fame, but his journey to stardom is fast paced.
Ed Sheeran, who has a larger role than I expected in this movie, gives him a big break and he can’t believe it. He invites him at the last minute to be the opening act for his concert in Moscow. Jack of course accepts and he leaves his family, friends, and old life behind for a lucrative life of lies as a sham “songwriter”. During the flight he writes “Back in the USSR”.
The crowd go wild in Moscow, but you see this one large guy in the crowd who has tears in his eyes because these Beatles songs in his imagination have come to life through the voice and guitar of Jack Malik.
Ed Sheeran is so impressed by his opening act that he challenges him to a songwriting contest. Jack wins with “The Long and Winding Road”. Deborah, Ed Sheeran’s manager, is so impressed that she invites Jack to LA and wants to manage him. Jack gets there and Deborah gives him a choice, live his ordinary life in bonny old England or live a life of fame and fortune, but drink a proverbial chalice of poison. Jack picks the celebrity life and he takes the world by storm, but he loses some of his image, some creative control, and Ellie.
He goes to Liverpool to write Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever and a woman is there noticing that Jack also knows these songs. While there, he unexpectedly meets up with Ellie again and they kiss, but she decides not to sleep with him. Jack meets her again at Lime Street Station before Jack flies back to America and confessed that he likes her but she says it’s too late unless he wants to stay in England. He says he has to go and
In one scene Ed Sheeran suggests “Hey Jude” should be “Hey Dude”. During this session Jack hears heartbreaking news, Ellie is seeing Gavin.
What I love about this movie is the tongue in cheek poking fun at the music industry and how the big wig businesspeople take advantage of the artists who make them their money. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows and our protagonist Jack gets nightmares of being found out to be a fraud. Like on a James Corden appearance he dreams that Paul and Ringo come out to say it’s their songs.
The marketing team meet with Jack and suggest that the emphasis should be on him being the only mind behind the songs. The funniest criticism was the one about The White Album being a bad title because of the lack of diversity.
Jack has a brilliant idea to launch his album, a rooftop concert in his hometown at the Pier Hotel. He plays a more pop punk version of “Help” to a screaming crowd and sees a Yellow Submarine in the distance. Later, the other two who know The Beatles songs visit him backstage and give him a sheet of paper with the address and name of a certain someone… John Lennon who instead of being a Beatle, he lives a humble life on the seaside.
Jack talks to John and he tells him to get help and to tell Ellie how he feels about her. Jack comes up with a plan and asks Ed Sheeran to make a guest appearance at his Wembley concert where he’ll confess that these songs are by John, Paul, George, and Ringo and to make it up to the fans he will release their songs for free. And one more thing, he’ll tell Ellie how much he appreciates and loves her.
Ellie is shocked and Gavin recognises that he was her number 2 and that she is meant to be with Jack. They get married, go back to their hometown, start a family, and live a normal life once again. Jack makes a reference to Harry Potter and Ellie doesn’t get it. Google only shows a soldier by the name of Harold Potter and Jack decides not to go down that path again. Overall a cliched, but very heartwarming, cute, and wholesome ending.
This movie is worth the watch and Beatles fans will giggle throughout. I wouldn’t say this is something you can watch over and over again, but it’s still enjoyable.
You can listen to the soundtrack below:
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