Warning: minor spoilers!
Words by Gianna Sibal
Let’s get this out of the way first: I am not a fan of The Beatles.
Cue the gasps. But that isn’t to say that I don’t know their music—I mean, who doesn’t? Even I would be surprised to come across somebody who doesn’t at least know Hey, Jude, or the famous Let It Be. Even as a non-fan, I’d be singing along to those two. Especially the “La, la” bit from the former.
That said, still, it’s hard for me to imagine a world without The Beatles. Say what you will, but there’s no denying the impact The Beatles had created on millions of people, on culture and the music industry—it just feels…wrong.
Yesterday gives us a peek of that world—and if you can’t imagine life without The Beatles, Danny Boyle’s new film will paint that picture for you.
The film, scripted by Richard Curtis, known for romantic comedies Four Weddings and a Funeral as well as Love, Actually and even About Time—charming, emotional, joyful and heartbreaking at the same time—also approaches Yesterday in a rom-com, slice-of-life feel.
Jack Malik, portrayed by Himesh Patel, is a struggling singer-songwriter, an unsuccessful busker from an English seaside town called Suffolk. Even with the fierce devotion and support from childhood best friend Ellie (Lily James), Jack is on the verge of giving up on his dreams of fame, of making people listen to his music (actual people, and not just his friends, or his parents). After an accident and a mysterious blackout all over the globe, Jack wakes up—and at first, everything’s normal. Even when he belts out, “Will you still feed me when I’m sixty-four?”, and Ellie replies with, “Why sixty-four?”
When he plays Yesterday for his friends, they’re stunned. And this scene in the film is absolutely beautiful, it reminds us to appreciate its solemn melody and gives us the time to really listen.
“When did you write that song?” Ellie questions, emotional. Jack is confused, and he tells them it’s one of the greatest songs ever written by The Beatles. They ask, “Who?”
Racing to Google, Jack finds no trace of The Beatles at all. With this, Jack makes the choice to pass off their songs as his own, and he kicks off as an international superstar when Ed Sheeran, playing himself, catches sight of his talent and asks him to join him on his tour.
The Beatles numbers are great, and Patel does an undeniably good job recreating these, especially with The Long and Winding Road, and Back in the U.S.S.R., and Help! The musical talent is there, and these numbers remind you how much you love and miss them and their music.
You will laugh a lot in the movie, trust me. Boyle and Curtis hit up the comedy when Jack forgets the lyrics to Eleanor Rigby, and when his mom confidently tells a neighbor that his new song is called Leave It Be.
As the film goes on, Jack’s guilt starts to eat at him—being praised for a musical genius, a ‘one-man only’ singer-songwriter. The ending scenes are his saving grace—he’s reminded to stay true to himself
and not to plagiarize ever again, even with good reason. A couple of times, the film teases the possibility that Jack might be called out for his fraud, and it’s got the audience at the edge of their seat. But the most shocking moment is a stunning out-of-nowhere scene for The Beatles fans—you’ll know it when you see it.
Surprisingly, even with Curtis writing the script, the romance, for me, was a bit…weak. The feelings and words there to convey their emotions should’ve felt a bit more urgent in my opinion, even when Lily James makes Ellie likeable and gives her a breath of sincerity.
My dad came with me to watch this film, and he is a fan of these four, talented men from Liverpool. Most of their generation seems to be, and the generation before that: those times were the peak of The Beatles. When I asked him how it felt to watch the movie as a fan, he said, “The Beatles…is something na hindi pwede mawala. They were one of the few groups who revolutionized the music industry—I’m not saying they’re the only ones, but they are one of them in their own rights. Still, the film is fiction, and it’s entertaining naman.” He also added, “When you’re a fan of The Beatles, hearing their songs pa lang from the film is something talaga.“
Yesterday gives us a chance to see what would happen if a cultural hole was ripped into the world—there’d be no Oasis, and funnily enough, Coca-Cola and cigarettes and Harry Potter do not exist.
Some people would argue, though, that the movie implies not a celebration of the band and their music, but something along the lines of, “If it hadn’t been The Beatles, then it would’ve been someone else” meaning, in this case, Jack Malik, who became an international sensation overnight. But that’s not how culture works—it was a phenomenon of the right combination of the right people (Lennon, Harrison, McCartney, Starr) at the right time. The film also, somehow, gives off a vibe that the music industry before is the same as it is now. And without The Beatles, there would’ve been a ripple effect—how many artists have been inspired by their music as the years passed by? And that inspiration came to the next artist of the next generation, and so on and so forth? Yes, Oasis doesn’t exist, but the rest of modern music does, and it’s unchanged. That’s kind of weird.
Still, Yesterday is a feel-good film, and it did make me feel good, especially with the comedy. It’s interesting to see how fans of The Beatles will react to this film, so share with us your thoughts about the movie!
Catch it in cinemas nationwide on July 24, and bring your family and friends who are fans of The Beatles!
Watch the trailer here: