“All my troubles seemed so far away/Now it looks as though they’re here to stay …” That’s the way life looks to Jack Malik after he gets trapped in an alternate world.
A sci-fi fantasy musical romantic comedy – yes, that pretty much describes this new movie from Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire,” etc.) that was written by Richard Curtis (“Love Actually,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral”).
Titled “Yesterday” – after the 1965 Beatles song – this sci-fi rom-com movie introduces us to Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), a failed musician who gets involved in “a freak bus accident during a mysterious global blackout,” and wakes up to find the world slightly out of joint. The change is a small one, not noticeable at first, until he realizes nobody recognizes the Beatles songs he sings.
A world where the Beatles never existed? Unthinkable!
It’s hard to imagine a world without “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Revolution,” “Let It Be,” or “The Long and Winding Road.”
But the music is there, in Jack’s head. When he plays the music, everybody thinks this is his original work.
Whatever would one do?
At the urging of his domineering agent (“SNL”’s Kate McKinnon), he takes credit for all these never-before-heard Beatles songs and soon gains worldwide fame for his wonderful music.
Along the way he gets tutored by pop music superstar Ed Sheeran (playing himself), who tells him the lyrics need a little tweaking: That song Jack is singing should be changed to “Hey, Dude.”
The troubles here to stay? His childhood friend and earlier manager Ellie (Lily James) might just lose her faith in him for this self-aggrandizing stunt.
“Yesterday” is currently making its Fab Four music at Tropic Cinema.
“Apple and Sony are very picky about not only who uses the band’s music but how it is used,” notes Danny Boyle.
Working Title Films negotiated up front the rights to use the music. “There’s no point in spending money on a film like ‘Yesterday’ unless you can guarantee you’ve got the music,” Boyle points out.
“It made for a top-heavy budget – the costs for the songs were very expensive, a substantial part of the film’s budget.” In all, Working Title paid about $10 million for the rights to the Beatles’ songs featured in “Yesterday.”
In a way, the film’s plot came from Paul McCartney. “It’s like what Paul has said about the song ‘Yesterday’: he just woke up and played it, and for a long time he was certain he had stolen it because it came to him so fully formed, and seemed so familiar,” laughs Boyle.
“It’s such a brilliant idea – I can’t believe it’s not been done before,” he says.
Far from being a one-joke movie, “Yesterday” has an charming emotional undertone as it explores the price of fame, not being true to yourself, and the sweet relationship between Jack and his longtime friend Ellie.
The chemistry between Patek and Lily James is convincing.
Himesh Patek sings all the songs himself. “The actor’s voice is soft and unembellished, making it perfect for the songs of Lennon and McCartney,” observes Maddy Shaw Roberts of Classic FM.
Boyle adds: “When we decided to call the movie ‘Yesterday,’ I wrote to Paul and said ‘Is it OK? What would you think?’ He wrote a very sweet note back and said ‘You should probably consider calling it ‘Scrambled Eggs,’ since that was the original title of his song. It would be a very good title, but like me, you can settle for ‘Yesterday’ if you like.’”
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