Yesterday is better than it deserves to be. On the surface we expect a science fiction gimmick has allowed Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) to become the only person on the planet to remember the Beatles many musical hits. Director Danny Boyle and writer Richard Curtis blend the famous music with a muted romance and a twist in faith that entertains through the music and the resolution of what is important in life.
Jack Malik struggles as a singer-songwriter form Clacton-on-Sea whose musical career is not bringing any level of success. He finds himself playing to limited audiences with little response for his work. Ellie Appleton (Lily James) a lovely sweet young woman is his only true fan and follower. James presents her character smoothly as a young girl with perfect facial expressions and body language to impart that she is committed to Jack in more ways than one.
The change occurs one evening when electricity is stopped world wide. Jack is hit by a car during the black out, loses two front teeth and awakes to a new place where he has knowledge of Beatles music that no one else remembers ever existed. He also learns that Coke does not exist and only Pepsi is available. Cigarettes are also not heard of and there is no Harry Potter.
When Jack begins to play and perform the music we know as belonging to the Beatles, the story builds into a crescendo that makes him the most popular singer and musical writer in the World. It then moves where we might expect, his success moves him away from Ellie and into the hands of Debra Hammer (Kate McKinnon) a promoter who takes charge of his musical life and in reality his total existence.
Director Boyle cleverly never explains the path in time, he just allows it to play out. When we might expect some science fiction or dream sequence to explain what happen, but Boyle doesn’t bother with that. He allows the new direction to simply continue.
What moves the film to a higher plane is a construct which allows Jack to meet John Lennon who has lead a quiet fulfilling life and is now seventy-eight years old.
On the surface Yesterday is the rise of a mega-rock star who has used the Beatle’s songs for success resolving its self looking at what is important in life. Along with some the comic adventure and the music which has a lasting impression, the film answers the question of what is fulfillment and happiness. That twist moves the film from a simple little different method of presenting the Beatles music to one that deals with what is happiness and that makes for an enjoyable meaningful adventure.