Imagine if you were the only person on Earth who remembers who the Beatles are? In the movie Yesterday, Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is hit by a bus during an unexplainable 12–second world–wide power outage and wakes up to find that everyone around him no longer remembers one of the greatest bands of all time. As a failing musician, Malik seizes this opportunity to write down and perform all the greatest Beatles hits that he can remember.
In this Beatles–less alternate–reality, Jack becomes an overnight sensation and catches the eyes of Ed Sheeran who asks him to tour. For any Beatles fan, this part of the movie that will likely raise frustration. After performing just a few covers, Jack moves his audiences to tears and is quickly considered the best singer–songwriter on Earth. Not only do his writing abilities seem to miraculously develop overnight—so too does his stage presence and confidence.
Although it intends to honor the magic of the Beatles lyricism, Yesterday inadvertently invalidates the band’s skills as musicians and performers by suggesting the whole band could be replaced by one man with competent vocals and passable guitar skills. If you’re looking for a Beatles tribute movie this one definitely falls short. But, if you’re looking for a cute romantic–comedy and a satire of the current music industry, then this is for you.
Supporting the endeavors of Jack since his middle school talent show days is his always chipper best friend and manager, Ellie, played by Lily James. The audience watches and waits for Jack to recognize Ellie’s constant love and support as he is launched into fame. From the beginning, Ellie drives Jack to gigs, books his shows, and provides constant moral support. Although following the typical "will–they–won’t–they trope", Lily James puts on a charming and lovable performance, even if she’s written to be incredibly static, making the budding romance so captivating to watch.
Another one of the film's saving graces? Quirky British humor follows the fantasy and romance. Jack performs “Hey Jude” to Ed Sheeran, who recommends that the song would be much better if it was called “Hey Dude.” Kate McKinnon plays Ed Sheeran and Jack’s hilariously ridiculous manager, Debra, and serves as a satirical embodiment of all things wrong with the music industry by obsessing over image, flash, and fame.
Ultimately, it’s hard not to notice parallels between this satire and the movie’s plot itself. The movie uses a flashy, yet limited storyline to create fantasy, comedy, romance, but fails to explore the magic, hard work and talent that made the Beatles so irreplaceable.