Dir: Danny Boyle
Reviewed Jun 29, 2019
I remember that shocking Monday in December.
I was 15 years of age and came home, turned on The Riff ra-da-dio, set down my homework assignments and started going through my mail. It was a half-day at my high school, and I was joyous.
Like any situation in radio or television advertising, you know something is amiss when an advertisement, the money source to pay the bills, is interrupted. This day was no ordinary day. The announcement from one of WRIF’s dour sounding rock and roll DJs was a slap in the face to all peace-love-and-happiness-loving people. John Lennon was dead. Not by natural causes, or for the reasons narrow minds would naturally pounce on — drugs — but by a handgun-wielding murderer who apparently killed John for no known reason. (As an aside, with several classmates the next day in tears, I stated it was probably a Republican who committed the crime, and I was right.)
That murder — of the artist, activist, author, and ostensibly most prolific musician of The Beatles — changed me. I dropped to my knees and wondered why anyone would kill a man so dedicated to peace, showcasing the necessity for that position; becoming an embodiment of the need for the very advocacy for which he stood — and unwittingly gave his life — to advance. I became more cynical after his murder, more dedicated to the values Lennon represented, more careful in my ready acceptance of others; colder. I became more sensitive to ideas of hatred, possibly even more dichotomous in my worldwide outlook.
The musical genius of the super-super-duper group The Beatles and their legacy is the focus of the movie “Yesterday” (which I saw yesterday). Himesh Patel plays Jack Malik, a frustrated musician who finally gives up on his dreams of making it big, with far too many failures behind him. Fans of BBC soap operas may recall Patel’s decade-long role in ‘EastEnders’ (I’m more of a ‘Coronation Street’ guy myself), so he has the acting chops to execute the role well, believably shifting between emotions of musical elation to guilt-riddled angst about his deceptions.
Catapulted into a world where only he remembers the musical legacy of The Beatles, his character realizes he knows a crapload of music he can claim as his own. Despite the absolute improbability of any worldwide switch-over where all electricity goes out across the globe (including bus headlights), where The Beatles, Coca-Cola and Harry Potter never existed, director Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting”) and screenwriter Richard Curtis (“Bridget Jones’s Diary”) place just the right amount of crazy cool scripting gadgets to smooth the way through the improbabilities (I’m tempted to end this sentence with “and into our hearts”, but I won’t).
Thankfully, the film sticks to its guns, not falling for the cheap scripting shortcut used in “Jacob’s Ladder”, “Donnie Darko” and “Sucker Punch”. That is what I expected, and thankfully this film delivers more, while still having enough plot holes to drive a planet through.
If you are a fan of The Beatles, even of silly rom-coms despite knowing the plot, see “Yesterday” today, maybe even tomorrow. I give 7.5 stars out of 10. That’s actually high for me, so also a recommendation.
That terrible day in 1980 nearly brought tears to my eyes in the third reel. I wondered what kind of world I would prefer to live in. Would I want what I have? A world with the Fab Four, or the one shown to us here?
I’m not sorry, John, to say I’m glad you met Paul.