Somebody up there doesn’t like the Beatles. The movie begins by showing Jack, a struggling musician. He’s encouraged by a small circle of friends and most of all, his agent, Ellie, (played by Lily James.) All she can find for him are the small gigs where no one listens to him. He decides he’s not good enough.
At that moment, there’s a mysterious world-wide blackout. It only lasts twelve seconds, then life seems to go on as normal except for Jack who was unconscious for those twelve seconds due to an accident.
He recovers. His friends celebrate. He starts to sing his favorite Beatles song, Yesterday. His friends are stunned. They knew he was talented but not that talented. No, they have never heard of the Beatles. They think he created Yesterday!
Jack does something sensible. He googles and discovers the Beatles never existed. Soon, he learns Coca Cola never existed either. A running gag throughout is his discovery of yet more famous icons, such as Harry Potter, that have vanished. Clearly, the twelve second black out has thrown the world into an alternate universe. And that is the only explanation we are given. This has to be the work of aliens who for some reason have it in for the Beatles. This is not explored. Yesterday is not science fiction, but fantasy.
And it works very well as a light hearted look at Jack and his new world. This means all sorts of problems and plot points go unexplored. Just go with the flow and don’t overthink it.
We are treated to a wonderful amount of music for Jack starts doing all the songs he can remember. A very funny scene is him struggling to remember the lyrics to Eleanor Rigby. The only serious question that is raised is how many songs does he know by heart? What will happen when he runs out of songs. He’s just not that talented for original work. Luckily, he’s a good singer and he performs the Beatles songs so well he soon is famous.
Not just famous. He’s hailed as a genius. He’s becoming a superstar and this creates all sorts of problems for him. Who is he really? What does he want? Is it right for him to do what he’s doing? Oh, and what about Ellie?
And then, to his horror, he learns that there are a few others who escaped the mind wipe. Two who loved the Beatles come to see him.
No spoilers, except to say Yesterday has a satisfying ending. As I said, do not overthink it, just relax and get into the music of yesterday.
Reviewed by Marian Powell
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