The delightful boomer fantasy Yesterday is oddly enough built on a boomer nightmare: a world in which The Beatles don’t exist.
That’s the reality to which struggling British singer-songwriter Jack Malik (Himesh Patel, BBC’s “EastEnders”) awakens after a bicycle accident, prompting him to perform and record as many of the band’s songs as he can recall from memory, thereby launching him to fame and glory.
Whether or not these iconic tunes would indeed land with modern listeners hearing them for the first time — and how music from the past five-plus decades, including multiple artists mentioned in the film who are clearly influenced by the Fab Four, would sound without them — are bigger questions best left for post-screening discussions.
But the way in which this skillful fusion of screenwriter Richard Curtis (Love, Actually), director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) and their distinct styles prompt viewers to reflect on their own relationships with the Beatles’ music and which songs might come to mind first when thrust into Jack’s sudden archivist mode is pure pop culture magic.
The giddy musical reflections and celebrations are enough to largely overlook Jack’s poorly established relationship with his manager/best friend Ellie (Lily James, Baby Driver) — on which much of the film hinges — and an 11th-hour screenwriting cliché that the veteran Curtis should know not to use.
Such is the power of John, Paul, George and Ringo, whose legacy should receive a well-earned boost over the next few months.