Whether it’s “She Loves You,” “Get Back” or “Yesterday,” odds are that you’ve heard the distinct sound of the Liverpool-based group composed of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Even if you haven’t, modern music is a beneficiary of the history made over and over again by the Beatles, who many consider to be the greatest band ever.
As Dave Grohl, lead singer of the Foo Fighters, once eloquently said, “From one generation to the next, the Beatles will remain the most important rock band of all time.”
Following the box office success of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” it came as no surprise when a movie based off the works of two of the greatest songwriters of all time, Lennon and McCartney, was announced. The project, which dropped a trailer on Feb. 12, 2019, is titled “Yesterday.” But before beginning, I must warn you: Limited spoilers lie ahead, especially if you haven’t seen the trailer! If this is the case, you can watch it here.
Universal Studios’ British production company Working Title Films is producing “Yesterday.” Working Title Films is no stranger to the spotlight, having produced well-known pictures such as “Love Actually,” “The Theory of Everything” and “Baby Driver,” among many others.
The director, Danny Boyle, directed “Slumdog Millionaire,” which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2008. With this pedigree, it is likely that “Yesterday” will display some of Boyle’s signature traits, such as imposing visuals and a vibrant tone. Joining Boyle are producers Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Richard Curtis, who directed “Love Actually.”
As far as the trailer divulges, “Yesterday” tells the tale of no-name singer and songwriter Jack Malik (Himesh Patel). Out for a nighttime bike ride, Malik is shocked when power is lost all over the world. Moments later, a careening bus slams into him, sending Malik airborne.
It isn’t until later, after he recovers and is gifted a guitar from love interest Ellie (Lily James), that he discovers, to his utter amazement, that the world has miraculously forgotten the Beatles, leaving him, as Malik frightfully confesses, “In a really, really, really complicated situation.”
Later, a video surfaces of Malik singing a Beatles song and promptly goes viral. He is then approached by label recruiter Mandi (Kate McKinnon). Before he can croon “Help!” Malik is an international star releasing what is considered the greatest album of all time. The only catch? Malik has to wrestle with the fact that he is stealing the work of artists he has revered his entire life.
Initially, when word of “Yesterday” broke, I was hesitant. It seemed the movie would be simply a mirage of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” substituting the Beatles for Freddie Mercury and Queen. Yet, the trailer dispels that idea. Instead, the innovative plot could reawaken slumbering Beatlemania, and, in a divergence from “Bohemian Rhapsody” the movie looks to detail less of how the Beatles’ songs came about and more about the power that their music has on people of any generation.
“Yesterday,” which bills a number of high-caliber stars, also features the relatively unknown Patel in its lead role. Patel began his professional acting career in 2010 after appearing in “Eastenders,” a BBC show. The 28-year-old actor has played roles in a handful of other projects and is set to star alongside Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne in “The Aeronauts,” which is currently in post-production.
Patel is accompanied by the accomplished James, who has starred in films such as “Darkest Hour” and “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” and the hit show “Downton Abbey.” Her portrayal of Ellie implies a storyline of love, hardship and love again with Malik, regardless of his status as a world-renowned musician.
The film is not lacking in star power by any means. “Yesterday” also stars James Corden and Ed Sheeran as themselves, in order to show how music phenomenon Malik has integrated into pop culture. Corden is a classically trained actor, having starred in “Into the Woods” alongside his role as a late show host.
Sheeran, on the other hand, has limited acting experience outside of music videos. He did make a cameo in “Game of Thrones,” though, which has met criticism from fans and actors alike. I am far less perturbed by the scene and think his inclusion in “Yesterday” will be overall advantageous to the film. After all, Sheeran simply has to be himself.
Sheeran may not be the only famous musician in the film. While this is merely speculative — and, admittedly, contradictory — McCartney and Starr are rumored to make a cameo in the movie. In a scene of the trailer where Corden is interviewing Malik, the host states, “[I have] two men who claim that the songs are theirs.”
Immediately after, two sets of feet are shown walking down the row towards Corden and Malik. One pair is bare, while the other is dressed smartly in glossy black dress shoes. If you are a fan of the Beatles, you may recognize this as the same foot attire McCartney and Starr don in their famous “Abbey Road” album cover.
A simple Google search used to include both McCartney and Starr as cast members, but since then their names have been removed from the Google cast dropdown bar, and they are not credited as actors on the movie’s IMDb page. Whether or not they will play themselves is further complicated by the extended cast roster listing David Lautman as portraying Ringo Starr, and no one is assigned to the role of Paul McCartney. Personally, I find it difficult to believe that only one of the Beatles will be represented.
“Yesterday” will be released on June 28, 2019, with hopes of eventually becoming Working Title Films’ 15th Academy Award win. Funnily enough, Lennon was once asked about possible Beatles movies in the future, to which he famously responded, “Well, there’ll be many more, but I don’t know whether you can look forward to them or not.”
Only time will tell if “Yesterday” will be a film that fills the enormous shoes that crossed Abbey Road and Penny Lane.