Ch. #26 – “Yesterday and its surprising lack of The Beatles”


So the other week I went out to see “Yesterday“, the new The Beatles themed film directed by Danny Boyle which I had looked forward to seeing a great deal since I saw a trailer for it a number of months back.

Just the idea of a film featuring a bunch music by the Fab 4 almost had me sold but what I really piqued my interested is the tantalizing and quite frankly mindboggling “what if” scenario the film is based around; imagine a world where The Beatles didn’t happen nor did John, Paul, George and Ringo write any of the classic songs in their dense discography yet somehow, someone know about them and their songs… What would that world look like and what would you do with that knowledge? Great Googly Moogly Batman!

This piece is hardly meant to be a complete review or rundown of the film but elements from it will be mentioned, so if you haven’t seen it but want to and are hypoallergenic to spoilers you may want to stop reading here and get back once you have seen the film. You have officially been warned!

With everyone officially warned, let’s proceed to chew a little over “Yesterday” and The Beatles.

Let me start with answer the straight and simple question; did I like the film? My short answer to this question would have to be: Meh. It was alright.

To elaborate, “Yesterday” is a perfectly fine film and I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from seeing it but you should go and see it, if you choose to see it, with the right expectations. Looking back it’s apparent to me now that I didn’t walking in to the theater with the right expectation of what I was about to see, and ergo I was in slight disappointment by the time the end credits were rolling.

The issue for me was that this super juicy plot device about The Beatles never have existed yet someone knows (at least about) all of their songs isn’t the main point of the film. It’s first and foremost a Rom Com, with the juicy framework working as a plot device to set up the escapades and shenanigans between protagonist struggling musician Jack and his childhood friend and greatest fan Ellie and their turmoiling relationship.

…and that realization was kind of a bummer for me. Again, this doesn’t make the film bad by any stretch but I, and based on reading multiple reviews from professional critics and non-critics it seems like many watcher share this sentiment, didn’t buy a ticket and walk into a theater with the full understanding that they were to see primarily a Rom Com. Even though I don’t mind seeing a Rom Com it’s just not my preferred cup of tea.

The other shortcoming of note as far as I’m concerned with the film is the fact that a film so heavily based on The Beatles and their music more or less glance over trying to explain why the Fab 4 and their music is so great enduring and essential to how popular music has been shaped and is still being shaped now 50+ years on. The film just takes that for given that the audience is “in the know” and hardly bothers spending any time explaining why.

As far as assumptions to make there are certainly ones that takes greater leaps than this one, yet it feel to me that, again, a film so heavily themed and steeped around The Beatles ‘ought to at least offer some musing by the characters or the narrative to why. I do have understanding that trying to explain “why is The Beatles so great” is a huuuge question and a potential near-bottomless rabbit hole that Danny Boyle and the other people behind the film didn’t want to step down into. It’s not a documentary after all, it’s a pure fictional affair. Heck, I’m not sure that I wouldn’t even dare to try to offer an exhaustive riposte even if I dedicated an entire piece on this blog to said question…

All in all, “Yesterday” is a funny, charming and perfectly fine little flick that I won’t dissuade anyone from seeing but it’s going to leave a fair a bit of watcher disappointed like myself if you wanted to a see “Yesterday” as a sort of love letter to the Fab 4. Given what I have to assume must have been an immense undertaking in both time and money on clearing and securing rights to all of the music and intellectual property used in the film it just feel like a bit of a wasted opportunity to have created a splendous love letter and homage to one of, if not the, most important band to how popular music sounds today.

As for the song of the hour I’m going with one of the many, many great songs of the film,  “I Saw You Standing There” of 1963’s “Please Please Me“. To be honest it’s a song that prior to watching “Yesterday” that I mostly been glancing over to be honest as I really dig The Beatles’s more harder hitting, psychedelia and experimental stuff that they started with as they got more seasoned from “Rubber Soul” and onwards, hence I haven’t really listened a ton to their earlier records. But this song is nothing but pure awesomeness. It got rocking guitars and the lyrics are so great for a sweet little silly love song like this. So I’m very glad that the film made me re-aware of this great song. Thanks “Yesterday”!

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