‘Yesterday’ fails to honor The Beatles

Elena Waldman

Bringing back the songs of one of the most infamous pop groups of all time, “Yesterday” creates a scenario seemingly no one wants to imagine: what if everyone forgot about The Beatles? Released June 28, the film has experienced a miscellaneous critical reception, some audiences praising it for being a feel-good film and others deeming it too superficial to honor the iconic group. Holding the record as the best-selling artist worldwide, The Beatles and their discography are not easy to capture in film. “Yesterday” was conceptually promising, but unfortunately, the film did not live up to the notoriety of the band it is based on. 

“Yesterday” follows Jack Malik, who, after a few years of struggling to make it in the competitive music industry, decides to quit his pursuit in becoming a musician. After an extraordinary disaster disrupts electricity all over the globe, Jack comes to the realization that everyone in the world has forgotten The Beatles — or even worse, that they never existed. Jack develops from a failing artist to an icon by retroactively writing all The Beatles songs and passing them off as his own. Through his massive success, however, he realizes that with fame may come with a price. 

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One of the more charming aspects of “Yesterday” was the use of diegetic sound, which was further emphasized by the musical talent of Jack Malik, played by Himesh Patel. Jack proceeds with his version of the songwriting process by revisiting some of the places that inspired the most noteworthy tracks written by The Beatles, going on quests to Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields. These excursions, while quirky and exciting, did little to serve the plot in a meaningful way. These subversions of the plot that are sprinkled throughout the film wouldn’t be totally off-putting if they contributed to the story, but unfortunately, there were several loose ends that were forgotten about. For example, in one scene, Jack describes his inspiration for the song “Hey Jude” and makes up a story about a friend’s daughter whom the song is about. This is met with confusion from his best friend, Rocky (played by Joel Fry), who seems to question this but doesn’t bring it up any further. Moments like this that should mean something don’t end up making any difference in the culmination of the story, which effectively makes “Yesterday” much more underwhelming than a movie about The Beatles should be. 

While Patel’s musical talent did offer a refreshing take on The Beatles covers, it didn’t make up for the lack of depth within the characters. Jack’s best friend, Ellie, is the main love interest in the film, but not much is known about her other than the fact that she is Jack’s ex-manager and a passionate school teacher. Jack’s other best friend, Rocky, is in nearly every stage of Jack’s musical tours yet falls short of character development and depth. 

The overall message of “Yesterday” was ultimately void of deeper meaning and didn’t serve The Beatles justice. Throughout the film, Jack is forced to choose between happiness and fame. He either frets over his decision to go on tour rather than stay home with his best friend or he is internally battling the morality of passing off other artists’ songs as his own. 

Though it is a feel-good message, success at the expense of love isn’t a new concept. It seems “Yesterday” may have taken a page out of the “Bojack Horseman” book, but even the latter digs deeper than the surface level. 

Rating: 5.5/10

The concept is remarkably fresh, but people are likely better off just streaming The Beatles instead. The idea that the world would be worse off without The Beatles may ring true, but the world could certainly go without “Yesterday.”

Elena Waldman can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @WaldmanElena.