Yesterday tells the story of young warehouse worker Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), who’s trying to pursue a music career in Surrey, England. His childhood friend Ellie (Lily James) is a math teacher, but doubles as his manager. When she gets him a gig at a big festival, they think he’s finally making a breakthrough, but the venue turns out to be a tent, attended by only a handful of people.
Discouraged, Jack decides to give up on music. While riding his bicycle home from the gig, there’s a global blackout that lasts only 12 seconds, but it’s long enough for Jack to be hit by a bus and knocked unconscious.
He wakes up in the hospital with Ellie by his side. She teases him about the two front teeth that were knocked out in the crash, but in her endearing way, raises his spirits enough that once he’s released, he attends a small gathering of his friends. They give him gag gifts to cheer him up, while Ellie gives him a beautiful new guitar, because the one he was carrying on his bicycle was smashed.
He begins to play “Yesterday” by The Beatles, and his friends are amazed. Ellie asks him when he wrote it, because this is the first time she’s heard him play it. The others also claim to not recognize the song, but Jack thinks they’re teasing him (they do that a lot).
However, when he gets home and googles “The Beatles,” all he gets are pages about beetles. When he types in “John Paul George Ringo,” he gets information on Pope John Paul II. Jack slowly discovers that there are other things missing from public knowledge, such as when he asks for a Coke instead of Pepsi.
Desperate to remember The Beatles’ music, he writes the title of each song on a Post-it note, then tries to write down the lyrics for each one — at least, as much of them as he can remember. He decides to give his music career one last shot — playing songs by The Beatles.
The premise of this film is fascinating, and as each part is played out, the story makes for a rapt audience, as we wait to see what will happen. Will Jack become famous for “writing” Beatles songs? How far will fame take him? And is there anyone else who remembers The Beatles, including possibly Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr, the surviving Beatles? We hold our breath each time as Jack fears he’s going to be caught out.
The screenplay by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Richard Curtis, is hilarious throughout as Jack takes his fair share of teasing from his friends and family at first, and then from his new manager, played by Kate McKinnon. Ed Sheeran also plays a substantial role as himself, and shows that he’s not only one of the top music artists in the world, but he’s also a competent actor.
Himesh Patel portrays Jack as a man who’s wide-eyed — and even slightly stunned — when fame begins to come his way. As his fame grows, he gets more and more worried that he’ll be found out. He gives his character depth, even as he’s surrounded by a crazy cast of characters.
Lily James as Jack’s friend Ellie also offers up a fully rounded character. She has hard decisions to make when Jack’s fame becomes more than she can handle, as not just his longtime and dearest friend, but his part-time manager.
Kate McKinnon’s character is a little over-the-top towards the end, but it’s forgiveable because throughout the rest of the film, she’s absolutely hilarious and has the best evil glare I’ve ever seen in a comedy.
I really can’t say more about the film without giving too much away, except that there’s something towards the end that will come as a huge surprise. When it happened, I was totally thrown for a loop — I’m pretty sure I gasped audibly — it’s an incredibly imaginative plot twist.
Yesterday is not just mesmerizing, but charming from beginning to end and whether you’re a music lover or someone who just enjoys a good laugh, you’ll be fully entertained.
If you have seen Yesterday and would like to rate/review it yourself, click here. If you would like to see filming locations for Yesterday as well as Liverpool’s top Beatles tourist sites, click here.
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