When I saw the trailer of Yesterday, I instantly thought it had an interesting premise. It revolves around Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) who is a struggling musician living in a world where The Beatles doesn’t exist after a worldwide blackout. He then produces the band’s iconic songs and passes it off as his own. He then starts working under Ed Sheeran’s management and becomes one of the biggest superstars in the world.
In between the many musical montages, you get to see Jack struggling with his career choices and his regret of leaving his best friend and road manager of 10 years, Ellie (Lily James), behind in Suffolk. Which brings us to one of the arcs: Ellie admitting that she’s been fawning over Jack since they met and started working together in high school.
I’m a sucker for rom-coms, but I didn’t expect Yesterday to be one. The trailer showed a scene set in The Late, Late Show with James Corden where Jack was going to meet two men—I’m assuming it’s Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr—who claim they own the songs. I was waiting for a big confrontation where Jack realizes his wrongs, but lo and behold, the scene was a dream sequence.
The only confrontation was between Jack and two other Beatles fans who remember the band. But they didn’t lambast him or anything, they just thanked him for singing the songs. They also gave him John Lennon’s address because, in this universe, he’s alive and thriving in his seaside home. In an interview with Rolling Stones, director Danny Boyle said Yesterday is “not just covering the Beatles’ songs but recovering them from the dustbin of memory and re-presenting them to the world.”
Um, The Beatles hasn’t died of obscurity in this world yet, but okay.
Back to the rom-com bit: It’s a classic case of a smart woman being in love with a mediocre guy. Jack couldn’t function in Suffolk without Ellie’s help—she’s basically his personal driver because he couldn’t drive. Plus, with all the personality Ellie has, Jack is lacking a lot of it even when he underwent an entire PR makeover while making his first full-length album.
One of the pivotal moments in the film is Jack making a Bandersnatch-like choice to stay with Ellie in England or to fly back to Los Angeles for a major marketing meeting. He obviously chose the latter because music, fame, and money are what define him, but doesn’t really build up his overall personality throughout the film. The whole time I was thinking, “What does Ellie even see in him?”
The Muse noted that it felt like fan fiction catering to male readers, and it kinda did. Ellie was basically willing to be there for Jack for 10 years in hopes of helping him get his life together. Girl, that’s not your job! Focus on your actual job as a teacher and stop waiting on a guy to love you back in the 10 years you’ve known each other.
Yesterday used the tired rom-com trope that a woman was defined by the male lead, regardless if he was a competent character or not. The film ended with the world still not knowing who The Beatles are, Jack’s songs were released online for free download, and Ellie got to marry Jack and started a family with him in England. It didn’t resolve the Beatles problem. We’re all just supposed to accept the fact Danny Boyle thinks the band isn’t relevant today and Jack is walking away with his songs playing on the internet.
But don’t get me wrong, Himesh Patel’s singing was spot on (yes, he can actually sing) and Lily James was endearing. Their pairing and their storylines just weren’t the best. I’m not here to watch another woman spending all her energy on a man who just saw her as her manager and driver.
Photos courtesy of United International Pictures
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