Arts & Features Writer
In a world without life’s simple gifts of Coca-Cola, Harry Potter and most importantly The Beatles, a man tries to bring back the music the world lost in this summer’s comedy film “Yesterday.”
Jack Malik, played by British actor Himesh Patel, is a struggling singer / songwriter trying to make it into the world of music. His world changes when a sudden world-wide blackout creates an alternate reality where The Beatles, among other things, never existed. As chance would have it, Malik was struck by a bus while riding his bike down the road. This freak accident saved him from forgetting his past reality, as well as costing him his two front teeth. Now with this new library of classic hit songs at his disposal Malik quickly rises to fame and lives his dream, but not without guilt and heartache.
“Yesterday,” directed by Danny Boyle, remains a light-hearted comedy while touching on the issues of unrequited love and finding originality in the modern world. The plot mainly spotlights the love dynamic of Malik and his friend and former manager Ellie Appleton, played by Lily James. Their relationship includes a not that original “will they, will they not” theme throughout the whole film. The back and forth nature of the relationship between Malik and Appleton eventually leads to a dramatic ending resolving the tensions between them.
While the film had a focus on the relationship between Malik and Appleton, Malik’s struggle with guilt only added to the film’s plot. He is shown struggling with the choice of continuing his normal, unsuccessful life or to take the songs as his own and finally become somebody. After his choice of fame was made, it is obvious that his inner turmoil is still taking over him. It takes the hug of a member of The Beatles to set his mind and heart back in agreement to do what is right.
“So many good songs, and I liked that we saw John Lennon,” said Beatles fan and Asheville Pizza and Brewing patron Kathy Miron.
Lennon is introduced toward the end of the film as a therapeutic character for Malik who is struggling with the guilt of playing the songs that do not belong to him. In this new reality, Lennon, played by uncredited Scottish actor Robert Carlyle, never gained fame from being part of The Beatles and is shown as being alive and well despite in our reality having been murdered in 1980. Their conversation started when Malik got Lennon’s address from two other Beatles fans who still remember the past reality, which leeds Malik to show up at Lennon’s door unexpectedly. The conversation proved therapeutic for Malik by finally getting the courage and strength to publicly declare the truth.
Another famous musician appearance includes Ed Sheeran, who plays himself as a pivotal character to the plot. Sheeran was the opportunity Malik needed to break into the professional music industry by inviting him on tour. After it was proven that Malik was the better songwriter by belting out numerous Beatles tunes, Sheeran steps away and let Malik rise to the top.
Saturday Night Live star Kate McKinnon plays Sheeran’s manager Debra Hammer. McKinnon’s money obsessed character takes Malik under her wing and gives him instant fame and a name for himself. These modern stars in the television and music world let the younger audience of today connect to this film that features songs coming before their time.
Songs featured in “Yesterday” include “Let it Be,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Help!” and many others. Malik throughout the film struggles with the lyrics to some songs, given there is no reference available for him in this reality. This takes him on a trip to Liverpool, England for some inspiration. While there, Malik visits important sites to The Beatles including the actual Penny Lane, Strawberry Field, and the real grave of Eleanor Rigby.
“As life goes on, this is the kind of music you look back to when you were young. It takes you back,” said Pat Stang. Stang and Miron watched this modern tribute to The Beatles together at Asheville Pizza and Brewing, and while she said she was a young person in that era, she was not a huge fan at the time. Even still, the songs can bring back memories of a certain time. Both Miron and Stang said this was a successful tribute to The Beatles.
The only critique they had about the film was their personal preference in song choice.
“While most of it was good, they didn’t play some of the better ones in there, in my opinion,” Stang said.
This movie overall was a huge hit for audiences locally according to Asheville Pizza and Brewing, a mash up pizza joint, brewery and second-run movie theater all in one.
“We were sold out for the first several shows,” said Jack Turner, manager at Asheville Pizza and Brewing.
Showtimes at Asheville Pizza and Brewing for “Yesterday” are every night at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. until Sept. 19.