Two years ago a film by Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis was released in UK cinemas. It was shown for the first time on British TV last night and the Crotchety Couple watched it from the comfort of their sofa. The film is called Yesterday and it tells the story of a bit-part singer/songwriter who gets knocked down by a bus when a 12 second world-wide power cut plunges the streets into darkness. Jack Malik wakes up in hospital battered, bruised and missing two teeth but with no serious injuries. His long time friend and manager, Ellie, buys him a new guitar to celebrate his release from hospital and he chooses to play the Beatles song, Yesterday, for his friends. “A great guitar needs a great song”, he tells them.
Here’s the scene from the film.
The look of utter astonishment on Ellie’s face is the pivotal moment of the film. How could she not have heard that song before? But Jack’s four friends around the picnic table couldn’t be playing an elaborate joke on him, either. They’d never be able to keep up the pretence that they had never heard of The Beatles. There must have been some sort of collective amnesia. But, when Jack fires up Google, he finds no mention of ‘Beatles’ on the Internet and a search for “John Paul George Ringo” only turns up articles on Pope John Paul II. Yesterday The Beatles were the pop sensation of the sixties; today it was as though they had never existed.
So, what does a musician do with a treasure trove of songs in his head? He performs them, of course. And soon Jack Malik is the latest pop idol, taking credit for the compositions of the now forgotten Fab Four. From here on the film is mostly predictable, but thoroughly enjoyable for all that. Ed Shearan has a small part and there’s a brief glimpse of Michael Kiwanuka, too. Inevitably, fame tears Jack and Ellie apart but we know they will be reconciled in the happy ending. And, of course, there are the songs.
There are probably better versions of Yesterday than this but Himesh Patel does a decent job of making Jack Malik credible and Lily James gives a dazzling performance as Ellie. And, if a Richard Curtis script is a little too sugary for you, you can just bask in some sixties nostalgia as a selection of Beatles’ songs flows through concert scenes from Moscow, L.A. and the beaches of Suffolk, England.
Jack Malik says Yesterday is “a great song”; Crotchety Man goes further: Yesterday is a timeless classic.