For those who have someone they hold dear, how would it feel to fall in love with the same person for the first time, once again? That mixture of excitement and nervousness, followed by a rush of joy after realizing that you have stumbled upon something truly special?
Director Danny Boyle’s “Yesterday,” a film about a world where the Beatles never happened, depicts that wonderful moment of the world falling in love with their astonishing music for the first time, through a feel-good tale of a struggling musician who sets on a path toward true happiness in life.
The story starts out with Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), a young singer-songwriter struggling to make a name for himself to no avail. After another unfruitful gig, he decides to call it quits despite his manager and childhood friend Ellie (Lily James) urging him not to.
But a 12-second global blackout results in him being hit by a bus, after which Jack wakes up to find that nobody else in the world remembers “The Beatles” or any of their iconic songs. He decides to perform the songs as their own, embarking on a journey that offers fame and fortune but may take away something even bigger in return.
Yesterday (Universal Pictures)
Boyle and scripter Richard Curtis toys with an extremely intriguing premise. The Beatles are so much more than just a band with awesome music. They are icons, who are just there as we suck up their influence throughout life. To imagine a world without them is like imagining a world without bread.
While the initial scenes of Jack’s confusion in this strange new world and the ensuing comedy was fairly funny, I can’t say that the creative team really ran with all the possibilities. Although one of the most influential musicians of all time have just been wiped from existence, the world looked pretty much the same.
The Beatles have had a profound impact on so many aspects of the world: their music inspires countless number of artists across all fields, their messages touched the lives of so many more, and even the storied life and spirit of John Lenon undoubtedly altered lives. But the film pretends like just another Billboard No.1 artist has been scrapped from existence; a few changes here and there, but no biggie.
Instead the film turns into a rather simple and sappy love story about the true meaning of life and happiness, which we have seen so many times before. From a film perspective, neither the structure, the narrative nor the plot is really impressive.
What is impressive is the music. The film focuses on the marvelous wonder that is the Beatles by showing us the world before it met them.
My favorite scene was when Jack sang “Yesterday” for the first time in front of his friends, only to find that the song is completely new to them. They were overwhelmed and humbled by such adorable tunes that have peeked their heads into existence for the very first time. I imagined I too was listening to the song for the first time, and I could see: the wonder and awe of how the people must have felt the first time John, Paul, Ringo and George stepped up to perform for the first time.
It was love. The world loves the Beatles and their music, which is a true gift to those reside on it. It is only by its absence that we realize its true value.
“World without Beatles is a world that is infinitely worse,” says one of the characters in the film, and I agree.
In a way, the flick reminded me of 2018’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” about Queen’s vocalist Freddy Mercury, which in my opinion had flaws in its structure and narrative, not to mention altering some of the important events in the band’s life. But it captured the essence of what made Queen and its front man so special, the music and Mercury’s incomparable energy. Of course, it would have been better if it also shined light upon the other great musicians in the band, but it was an enjoyable film nonetheless.
While “Yesterday” may not be of top-notch quality, it too understood its subject matter and the infinite value it holds in the world. In the end, I didn’t really care about Jack and his love life, but had a rejuvenated passion for the Beatles music as I spent hours indulging the tunes.
In a way, I guess it was a sappy love story. But not really about a man and a woman, but about the Beatles and the world.
“Yesterday” opens in local theaters on Sept. 18.
By Yoon Min-sik (firstname.lastname@example.org)