MOVIES: Yesterday Explores Miracles and Power of Music

by SC Reviewer Shelby Larsen

Early dialogue, or at least an approximation thereof:

Ellie: Miracles happen every day

Jack: Name one

Ellie: Benedict Cumberbatch becoming a sex symbol

And if that can happen in the world as we know it, what could happen in a world changed by a 12 second power outage. Miracles? Well, some things, such as a world in which Paul, John, George, and Ringo never getting together, never forming a band, never becoming the Beatles is, in the film’s view (one I heartily endorse) a disaster, and it needs a miracle. In a tribute to the power of music, Yesterday shows us how it only takes one person—Jack, a failed rock musician—who remembers the “other world” to channel all the Beatles songs to an unknowing but completely responsive world.

Jack knows the music of the Beatles; all his life its run in the background of popular music. It’s been heard as oldies, in elevators, in tributes, in orchestral concerts, everywhere. Everyone knows the Beatles. Except that everyone around him, when he wakes up after being (pretty literally) thrown under the bus doesn’t know the Beatles, or their music.
Jack sees this as an opportunity, not to bring back great music, but to make himself successful. That he succeeds on a massive scale should come as no surprise. After all, that’s the experience of John, Paul, George, and Ringo when they let those songs into the world.

Himish Patel plays Jack, more than adequately portraying the pull of fame against the guilt of using the genius of others, and with strong musical performance skills, ranging from the first tentative offering of “Let it Be” to totally unresponsive family to his triumphant concert in Wembley Stadium.

Lily James plays Ellie, the sweet home town school friend from when he was “just seventeen”. And Ed Sheeran does a wonderful job playing Ed Sheeran, a certified star who recognizes the power of the music and mentors Jack. In a nice touch Sheeran’s advice to change “Hey Jude” to “Hey Dude” shows that he’s not infallible. In fact, at one point he tells Jack that “You are Mozart, and I am certainly Salieri”. Kate McKinnon is her usual competent performance as the ultra-competitive, slightly crazed Los Angeles manager who is more than willing to make him a star, and, also, to buy herself not just another Malibu beach house, but the entire beach once “the greatest album of all time” drops.

It’s not a spoiler to say that, when you are dealing with filmmakers whose credits include directing “Slumdog Millionaire” and writing “Love Actually” a slightly silly, somewhat sentimental feeling pervades the movie from beginning to end. There are no car chases (unless you count the bus-bike crash), no explosions (unless you count the power outage that precipitates the bus-bike crash), no superpowers. Unless, like me, you count the timeless super-power of good music.

It’s a feel-good film. Go, and enjoy.

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