I remember seeing the trailer for Yesterday way back in the day. It’s got a solid premise to it and reminds me of a writing prompt challenge on Reddit. You basically take a scenario and then see how far you can run with it. That’s basically what the film is doing here and so it’s not trying to let you know how this scenario came to be or anything like that. It just takes the premise and goes forward. I don’t think the movie did as much as it could have with the concept though and the ending isn’t super satisfying but I thought it was a fun ride overall.
The movie starts with Jack not doing so well at yet another musical performance. He is trying to write a lot of hit songs but the problem is that people just aren’t very interested. He tells his manager Ellie that he is finally giving up for good. His plans are put on pause though when he is run over by a bus. The world loses electricity for a moment and then a bunch of things are erased from history. All of a sudden nobody knows who the Beetles are, Coke a Cola doesn’t exist, and a number of other things are gone. The world just changed overnight and Jack is seemingly the only one who remembers the old universe. Nobody knew who he was before but with the power of the Beetles perhaps he can change that! Will he finally be a household name or is it possible that he just doesn’t have the voice for this?
So it’s a fun setup and I actually like that it wasn’t just the Beetles who are gone. By also removing soda and other things, it shows that this world is different in quite a number of ways and we’re just focusing on the change that Jack cares about. It gives the writers complete control to come up with a lot of interesting dynamics in here. Jack can try to get famous now but he will always have that fear in the back of his mind that history can reset and then suddenly he will be doomed. Is it worth it to get famous like this? Also, is he doing a disservice by using the music as his own?
Now to the moral question there, if the Beetles completely don’t exist then I don’t see anything wrong with using the music as your own. Put it this way, if Jack doesn’t sing the songs then they will never exist in the world and nobody can enjoy them. Yes he should be ethical enough not to try to really wring every penny out of the people but I don’t think it’s a problem to get rich off of this. So he can go and play as normal and it should be fine. My problem with Jack is more basic. The man does absolutely 0 research. He is on several interviews where people ask him why he chose the name of the song and he just has a baffled look on his face every time. You’re telling me he never thought that someone would even ask that question? It just makes him look so bad to be caught unaware each time. That’s not a good look for him and this happens way too often.
My problem with Jack is he doesn’t adapt to the situation and approaches everything half heartedly. This leads into the main problem in the film which is the romance. This part gets way overly dramatic and takes away from the fun little story that we’ve got here. So Ellie likes Jack and basically that’s why she’s always been driving him around for the last 20 years and is his manager. She just wants to help him out as much as possible and hopes he will notice her someday. So she has to take some blame here but I’ll get to her in a minute. For Jack, well he didn’t notice all those years and that’s fine. He may have just assumed she was being a good friend and that’s actually a very reasonable position. When you’re dropping hints they have to be legitimate hints because otherwise it may have just been the person being kind. If I was Jack I wouldn’t assume that Ellie liked him like that because at least as the viewer we see no indication of that.
Where Jack goes wrong is she actually does confess in the middle of a party. Jack was in a hurry but you absolutely have to respond and instead he just dashed off. Yeah that’s a full rejection if I’ve ever heard of one so later on when he tries to explain it just comes off as forced. He made his choice and now he has to live with it. It’s just way too late for him and so later on when he’s confessing and trying to win her back you can’t root for him. Particularly since she has already gotten a rebound boyfriend by this point. That should have been the end of the romance earlier and the film ends on that sad note where he is super rich and has everything in the world but lost Ellie in the process. Sure it’s not the super happy ending a viewer may want to see but it makes a whole lot of sense.
Then for Ellie well she should have confessed sooner. It’s traditional that the guy confesses to the girl but that’s not how this works. You’re not living in a movie and so you could lose your opportunity if you don’t go for it. If you like someone then you have to make the move. So Ellie had 20 years where she could have asked him out or at least been more direct about the whole thing. Then she got another boyfriend rather quickly even though she admitted that she still liked Jack. That’s really the biggest problem here because then she’s just using poor Gavin and as soon as Jack was ready for her she ditched him in an instant. That’s not a good romance and it reflects badly on her for that quick rebound.
I can’t say that Gavin had a lot of self respect either since he admits that he knew he was the rebound. Look if you know that you’re the rebound then you shouldn’t say yes. I don’t care how big your crush is, it’s not worth being the second choice because at any point you may be pushed back into that spot. You just need to get over your feelings and find someone else. So the romance was definitely the weak point of the film and will have you groaning the whole time. Don’t even get me started on the ending. I won’t go into specifics here but a lot of times there seems to be a black and white choice about being happy or being rich and I always feel that you can do both. So I didn’t agree with a certain decision by Jack.
On the whole the film was fun though and part of what makes it succeed is the fast pacing. The character cast is strong for the most part too. I liked Ed’s boss Debra as a solid villain the whole time. Every minute she was on screen she was insulting somebody and that was fun. She is not someone who will talk behind a person’s back, she’s just direct with her insults and I can appreciate that. It would have been nice if Jack could have talked back at least sometimes though instead of just taking it every time. It’s part of what makes him look bad here since he should have been saying something to his defense instead of just taking it each time. Cmon Jack you’ve gotta have more confidence than that.
Speaking of low confidence though, I thought Ed didn’t look good at all. Early on he challenges Jack to a contest and then when he loses the guy sulks immediately and goes to bed. Cmon you can’t act like that just because you thought that you would win. It makes you look like a sore loser. There’s also Jack’s friend but that guy is annoying since he squanders every opportunity. You’re supposed to feel bad for him but all of his issues are his own fault so how could you feel bad for him?
Towards the end of the film we ratchet up the tension a bit as two new characters come in that threaten to shake everything up but it’s more of a red herring. I thought that the idea of these characters was interesting but also brings up more questions about the premise. That’s why I would not have included them. Again I don’t think it’s bad that the film chose not to explore why these things were removed from history. We just have a scenario and you roll with it but adding a new element makes you think about the origin which is the problem. I feel like they were just there to make the scene rather tense but should have been cut out completely.
After all this is more of a comedic film first and foremost so it’s not like you needed a lot of danger. The film is at its best when it’s just having fun and the humor does land rather well most of the time. I thought the writing and script were solid as well. I’d even give the soundtrack a thumbs up since the little jingle that would play when he noticed something was off was pretty fun. Even just having one theme that stands out put this one way above most movies.
Overall, Yesterday is a good movie. I do feel like it left a whole lot of meat on the bone though and could have been better with a stronger pair of leads. Re-organize the romance a bit and remove the extra characters from the equation. Do all of that and this movie gets exponentially better in an instant. It’s still a movie I would recommend checking out though and I’d be down with more films like this where something happens and we see how the main character handles it. In a way this is like an Isekai even if the main character hasn’t left because he has knowledge that everyone else does not. It’s part of why the genre has gotten so big because it’s fun to imagine what you would do in that person’s place.