It’s always great to have an excuse to play Beatles songs in class and the latest one is this summer’s feel-good movie, Yesterday. In it a wannabe pop star from England wakes up from a bike accident caused by a global power cut to discover that he is the only person left on Earth who remembers The Beatles and their songs. Should he claim them as his own? Scripted by Richard Curtis (Love Actually) and directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), it’ll have you humming Beatles songs all the way home.
It’s the perfect one-line pitch: “Yesterday, everyone knew The Beatles. Today, only Jack Malik remembers their songs.” Jack (Himesh Patel) has been struggling to make a living as a singer-songwriter, with the indefatigable help of his best friend since childhood, Ellie (Lily James). When he realises The Beatles and their music have mysteriously been erased from history, despite a lot of doubts, he decides to present their songs as his own. Fame and fortune follow, and he is invited to be the opening act on Ed Sheeran’s tour. Sheeran plays himself in the film, in the role of older brother and mentor making helpful suggestions like changing the title of “Hey Jude” to “Hey Dude”.
Because it’s Richard Curtis, as well as being a musical, it’s a rom com, in that deliciously awkward British way Curtis perfected in Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill. Ellie has been holding a torch for Jack for years, and he is of course completely oblivious.
Himesh Patel, who plays Jack, is an unknown to most cinema goers, but he is a familiar face to UK TV viewers as he had a long-running role in the BBC soap opera EastEnders, Patel’s interpretation of Beatles’ songs won over the production team.
Richard Curtis had scripted Yesterday from an original idea by screenwriter John Barth. He sent it to Danny Boyle without much hope that he would agree to direct it. Although both men came to fame in the ’90s with British films that did exceptionally well internationally, their output has not at all been in the same style. As Curtis himself says, “In a way, Four Weddings is the anti-Trainspotting, and Trainspotting is the anti-Four Weddings.” One is about upper-class English people going to weddings, and the other about the drugs underworld in working-class Edinburgh. But a love of comedy and music makes up for those differences.
Yesterday has plenty of both, as the Jack character is caught up in a whirlwind of fame and activity while constantly fearing he will be exposed as a fraud. Sit back, open your ears and enjoy the ride!
On general release 3 July
Universal Pictures International