Singer-Songwriter Jack Malik gets hit by a bus during a power outage and when he comes to he’s the only one who remembers the Beatles. And their songs. What would you do?
The premise alone, right? I was hoping the trailer didn’t give away all the good bits. It didn’t.
I heard mixed reviews about Yesterday. Who cares? I was going. Opening night.
Sidebar: when I was little I had a (temporary) falling out with a girlfriend because she changed her allegiance from the Beatles to the Monkees. 😳More recently, a neighbor compared the sensation of One Direction to that of the Beatles. 😫 I’m sorry. That is sacrilege. I mean — I get the appeal and no disrespect to “Day Dream Believer” and “What Makes You Beautiful” but nothing even comes close to the cultural phenomenon of PJG&R except for maybe The Stones. Nah….not even the Stones.
You get where I’m going.
The Beatles are the ultimate common thread — the timeless hub around which all music lovers revolve. We can disagree about politics, cuisine and couture but I think we all see eye to eye when it comes to the Beatles…with the exception of my friend Jorge. I can’t even get into it with him. But he has many other lovely qualities so I cut him some slack.
Full disclosure the song “Yesterday” wasn’t even on my list of top 20 Beatles favorites even though it was the one that convinced my father the band wasn’t just a lot of noise. He slowly came around to letting me spin Rubber Soul on the living room turntable — outside the confines of my bedroom. So, I am thankful for the song.
But back to the movie (I can’t help but digress), I’m no critic and I’m not here to dissect it. If I were a student of film I’m sure I’d have found flaws. That said…l did notice an incorrect chord choice in Jack Malik’s performance of “The Long And Winding Road.” That really bugged me. Anyone else?
Oh and and I think that director Danny Boyle missed an opportunity for some humor with “Back In The USSR” and Russian election meddling. Then again, we’re probably better off with 2 hours of politics-free bi-partisan fun.
Other viewers had more serious issues: Critic Hanna Lynn writes that the film is a “saccharine, oversimplified, and deranged homage to the music of The Beatles.” What? What about how it makes you FEEL? Feel. Feel!!!
Obviously the director’s intention is for the viewer to ask him/herself what the world would be like without them. Hanna Lynn has an answer: “If The Beatles hadn’t existed, the world would be different, but still normal.” Oh. My. God. In my view that question is simply unanswerable because it’s unfathomable. Her dispassionate response is on par with Michael Dukakis’ matter-of-fact reply (in a 1988 Presidential Debate), when asked how he’d feel if his wife were ‘violently attacked.’
And K. Austin Collins suggests that “Yesterday is a victim of the amnesia it inflicts upon its characters.” What do those words even mean? I don’t know and again, I don’t care. Sometimes ya just wanna eat candy and not worry about your teeth, go for a ride and entertain a fantasy or sit in the dark and be graced by humble renditions of Beatles songs. Because they were. That’s hard to pull off.
Maybe I would have enjoyed the film even more had I not known the premise. Whatever. I smiled all the way through. From beginning to end. And so did my 6 friends. After the show we had planned to go out for drinks to discuss. Was it cheesy? Could the ‘John’ vision have been a dream? We skipped the discussion. When an experience is that satisfying what’s the point?
As far as I’m concerned without the Beatles, we’d all be (well, at least musicians), floundering about in an orbit without any gravity.
The Beatles pulled us into a place we didn’t know existed — a world of uncontrived, uncalculated delicious madness…of minor to major to minor again, of dropped measures and bizarre segues. Yet, the absence of logic never made so much sense. Anything was possible. They cooked with spices we never tasted. It was like we were all virgins and we shall never get that flower back. I miss them. I miss something having that much power over me.
Take that, Monkees and One Direction.
And so, along with telling a Big Little White Lie, Jack Malik brings the Beatles’ songs back into existence not just because he saw an opening for overnight success for a fledgling career but because he believes (as I do) that what the film’s ‘Liverpool Stranger’ had to say was true:
“A world without The Beatles is a world that's infinitely worse.”
We forgive you, Jack Malik.
Keep ‘em coming, Danny Boyle.