I saw Yesterday yesterday. You will be shocked to learn that I really liked it.
I have some nitpicks. Lily James is lovely and charming, but she’s playing the same sweet innocent she was in Baby Driver. I hope she gets a chance to extend her range a bit. The premise of the movie is that everyone in the world except for a scattered few completely forget the existence of the Beatles — those few have basically found themselves in a timeline where the band The Beatles never existed. The protagonist, Jack Malik, is a musician who becomes famous for simply recalling and replaying Beatles songs as if he were creating them fresh. This had me wondering…would Beatles songs be as popular and appreciated if they were removed from their social and historical context? Could just any old random person have achieved the heights of fame if they’d composed “Hey, Jude” out of thin air, with no foundation or build-up to the populace?
OK, a more pressing concern: is Ed Sheeran really that popular a starmaker? He’s played up as a fabulous rock star in the movie, and I can’t think of a single song he’s done.
Kate McKinnon was a cartoonish, over-the-top villain, and I cringed every time she was in a scene. She may be a good comedian, but she’s an awful actor, and it didn’t help that she was given a role that demanded she practically twirl an imaginary mustache and cackle.
Those are minor nits. What appealed to me most is that this is an original movie that doesn’t depend on anyone putting on Spandex and punching bad guys — nothing is resolved with violence. It was so refreshing. There was a constant build-up of tension, and how could there not be? It’s about an artist who is aware that he’s using other people’s creativity (even if those other people don’t exist in this timeline), and he’s wracked with doubts. He discovers there are others like him who remember the Beatles, and there is a confrontation…and it doesn’t turn out like I expected at all. All of these situations are dealt with in a very human way.
Also, slight spoiler ahead…
The Beatles may not have existed, but the people who made up the Beatles did. There’s an affecting moment where Jack meets a 78 year old John Lennon who was not assassinated, but instead lived a contented life as an artist. Not a famous artist, but just a person who married for love and created for his own self. I almost cried. I remember where I was when Lennon was murdered, and it was a dreadful shock, so to imagine the idea of him living (and not being spoiled with fame — he was sometimes a real jerk) was powerful.
So…nice movie. Interesting and different. Good music. Unique premise. It was wonderful to see an optimistic movie that wasn’t about unrelateable battlin’ superheroes.