Movie Review: "Yesterday"
**You should probably know that there are major spoilers ahead. I recommend watching the movie first.**
After Luke and I saw “Yesterday,” he said that he felt like the movie got so close, on multiple occasions, to saying something, but it never really did. He liked it, but wished it had gone all the way and just said something.
I’m tough on movies. I believe, with little exception, that movies must say something. That’s the whole point.
But in a weird role reversal, I disagreed with Luke.
“Yesterday” tells the story of Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), a struggling singer/songwriter who, by some twist of fate during a worldwide 12-second-long blackout, is the only person who remembers the Beatles. When his manager Ellie (Lily James) gives him a brand new guitar and he records some of their songs as his own, he is catapulted to international music stardom.
It’s a movie that has everything. There are comedic moments (Ed Sheeran arriving at Jack’s house, only to have his father not believe who he is), musical moments (the song battle between Ed and Jack); and bittersweet moments (all of Jack and Ellie’s conversations). There are lovable and crazy characters like Joel Fry’s Rocky and Kate McKinnon’s Debra, and PLENTY of references to the Beatles. Like the majority of Richard Curtis’ work, it’s a film that’s full of heart.
“Perhaps love isn’t all you need,” Jack says during one of his performances. “But it’s pretty damn close.”
In “About Time,” Richard Curtis’ work that is most like “Yesterday,” what the movie was trying to say was obvious. The point was said in dialogue, in the ending voiceover, and in the very concept of the movie. The most obvious meaning to be found in the dialogue of “Yesterday” is a line about the world being better with the Beatles’ music than without.
But the movie said something more, something deeper, it just didn’t say it loud and in your face; you had to let it resonate, let the movie be and feel the meaning when you left the theater.
There’s a scene that — though I probably should have — I didn’t see coming. After the rooftop performance to launch his world-changing album, Jack meets with two other people who, just by chance, also remember the Beatles. They give him an address, and that’s when Jack goes to meet John Lennon. Because in this universe, John Lennon is still alive and well.
When John Lennon opens his front door, I held my breath. There was this moment of wonderful suspension in the theater, everyone completely absorbed in this fantasy playing out in front of us.
Jack and John spend some time together, eventually walking along the shore by John’s house with his long-legged dog. And John says something important to Jack, something about how he lived a good life, spent it with the woman he loved, and he was happy.
As a failing musician, Jack longed for fame. As an accidental success, he longed for something real. “Yesterday” is a rom-com. It’s about the music of the Beatles, yes, but more than anything else, it’s about love.
“This was my last gig,” Jack complained, before the blackout that changed his life. “If it hasn’t happened by now, it would take a miracle.”
“Miracles happen,” replies Ellie.
The miracle that happened to Jack wasn’t that he remembered the Beatles when everyone else forgot them; it was that his music led him to Ellie.
Jack needed the Beatles — he needed John Lennon — to remind him that, at the end of the day, love is all you need. Right now, I think we needed Jack — and “Yesterday” — to remind us of that as well.
None of the photos in this post are my own.