Imagine all the people, living in a world without The Beatles. Well screenwriter Richard Curtis (Love Actually) and director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) brings this horrifying idea to light in Yesterday. Starring Himesh Patel as aspiring musician Jack Malik and Lily James as Jack’s lifelong friend and music manager, Ellie Appleton, the film follows Jack as he struggles to make it in the brutal music industry.
Ever since they were kids, Ellie has been captivated by Jack’s talents and took it upon herself to manage him. After years of performing gigs wherever possible, Jack finally gets an opportunity to perform a set at Suffolk’s Latitude Festival. Aside from his friends, Carol (Sophia Di Martino), Nick (Harry Michell) and of course Ellie, Jack performs to an empty tent. Post set he bumps into an old friend, Rocky (Joel Fry), backstage. Disheveled from his failed performance and hanging out with Rocky, Jack decides to call it quits on his music dreams and breaks the news to Ellie as they head home from the festival. Ellie does not take the news well and fights to keep Jack on the right path, reminding him of the day she fell in love with his talents and how since then, she has been determined to see him succeed. After an arduous trip back on the long and winding road back home with Jack’s mind made up, Ellie drops Jack off and he gets on his bicycle for the short ride home. Not long after Jack sets off, a strange phenomenon causes a rolling blackout across the globe and just as the streets turn to darkness Jack is struck by a bus.
Surviving a horrid accident and now missing a few teeth, Jack leaves the hospital and is greeted by his friends back home. Ellie gifts him stunningly beautiful acoustic guitar and when his friends request a song, Jack plays a tear-jerking rendition of “Yesterday”. Taken aback, Ellie questions when he wrote it and Jack is perplexed. After firing off facts about The Beatles with no response or recognition from his friends, Jack thinks it all some sick joke. But later that evening at home and thinking the unthinkable, Jack frantically searches Google for references to The Beatles. When the searches come up empty, Jack panics and realises that he may be the only person in the entire world that remembers The Beatles. Slowly, with Jack’s ‘new songs’, he sets off to conquer the world. But as his success grows, so do his troubles with love and the constant anxiety of getting caught out which brings him to breaking point.
Lily James is always a treat on-screen, so it’s no surprise that she is outstanding in her role as Ellie who appears pure, sweet and always quick to look out for Jack. Kate McKinnon is amazing as an overly zealous dramatized version of a power hungry and success driven music executive that has been turned up to eleven. And Joel Fry as the somewhat hopeless roadie, Rocky is subtly hilarious.
Anyone that knows me, knows that I have been a long-standing fan of Ed Sheeran. Although over the past year or so I have somewhat fallen out of love for his music. However, I think this film is the catalyst I needed to fall in love with him all over again. His role as an eccentric, parody version of himself had me in stiches. Ed has always been a funny bloke, so this film was the perfect fit for him.
Of course, the shining star of this film is Himesh Patel in his role as aspiring musician, Jack Malik. After mainly appearing in television series and the odd short film, Yesterday is Patel’s feature film debut – and what a way to be thrust onto our screens. Not only is he a brilliant actor with natural comic timing, but Himesh Patel is an outstanding musician. There have been a few films recently based on legendary recording groups or artists with one where the actor doesn’t even sing and is lip-synching the whole time. Patel, however, sings all the songs live and does so flawlessly. My favourite music performance in Yesterday would have to be “Help!” as the link between the song and Jack’s growing anxiety brings forward not only a powerful performance, but in the context of Jack’s frustrations, gives the song new meaning. I genuinely cannot wait to see what Himesh Patel does next in his career.
While the idea of living in a world without The Beatles is horrifying, Yesterday cleverly reminds viewers the importance of our music history. Not only are The Beatles the greatest band of all time, their music inspired and paved the way for the many generations of music artists and groups that we love and know today. A life without The Beatles is a scary notion and one that I am extremely thankful to be fictional. Although Yesterday is inconclusive with its premise, it is still ironic and evidently charming, releasing a recording entirely with Beatles covers, much like Himesh Patel’s film counterpart.
Yesterday is out in cinemas now and I strongly suggest you head out to see it. Sure, it isn’t perfect, but it is enjoyable and after viewing the film myself, I haven’t been able to stop listening to The Beatles and soundtrack since.