In Yesterday, the question of what the world would be like without the music of The Beatles takes a sort of backseat to the notion of what it might be like if those classic songs were debuting in a modern context. Through the eyes of the film’s main character Jack Malik, played in his feature film debut by Himesh Patel, we see how the world of 2019 reacts to the music of The Beatles for the very first time.
Taking that premise one step further during interviews on behalf of CinemaBlend, I asked members of the cast, as well as Yesterday writer Richard Curtis, about how they felt the band would fare if they had made the scene in our modern era, rather than back in the 1960s. Looking at those responses, starting with that of Himesh Patel himself, the picture painted is a clear one. Patel’s feelings on whether The Beatles would still be relevant have to do with the "magic" of the band's music. He said:
I think they would, yeah. I think they’d just be doing their own thing. I think the modern music industry wouldn’t exist without them, in the same way as it does. I think their music is magic, there was something magic about the connection that had made them prolific as musicians, as songwriters. And I think that would rise to the top, no matter what the situation.
Songs such as “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “I Am The Walrus” are part of the amazingly unique catalog The Beatles released into the world during the band’s 1960-1970 run. Certainly, you have fans who prefer the more pop-friendly songs that saw the Fab Four donning mop tops and holding their guitars higher than most players ever would.
Meanwhile, other Beatles fans are definitely more into the psychedelic beats inspired by musical stylings from around the world. Those years saw John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr shifting into more of an experimental stage, while also developing a message of universal understanding at the same time.
It’s because of that combined legacy that Lily James, the actress who plays Jack’s supportive best friend Ellie in Yesterday, has a very similar outlook on how The Beatles would affect the world we live in today. Her views fall along these lines of thought:
Yeah, I really do, because I think their music is transcendental. The songwriting, the skill, the artistry, the message, and everything about it is so unique and one of a kind. I think whenever their songs came out, they would be heralded like something special. … Definitely today. We’re living in a time where we need to be rallied together and have messages of love and goodness. And their music was so modern. I mean the journey that they went through throughout their music was so huge. And they were really ahead of their time, and getting influences from India, and from across the world.
What’s interesting is that James’ mention of the worldwide influences that informed the later years of The Beatles’ music could have been an interesting topic of discovery for the film to have taken. With Himesh Patel’s Jack traveling to various Beatles landmarks in order to write songs like “Eleanor Rigby” or “Strawberry Fields Forever," the film could have taken a globe-trotting approach to its very conceit.
Certainly, Yesterday’s writer Richard Curtis may have had that sort of concept in his mind at some point, but the finished product is much more intimate and better suits the sort of story he was going for with this film. Even better, when it came to be his turn to discuss whether or not The Beatles would be as big now as they were then, Curtis cited a very interesting modern precedent:
I absolutely think so. It’s funny you should say that, I really think so. Just look at Ed Sheeran’s career. You know the thing they’re doing now with releasing a song every two weeks? That’s what Ed’s doing with his new collaborations album. And I just think they would, because they had such promiscuity, they did so many songs and such a variety. I think if they had made their first album and started releasing so often, I think the question is would they have the same work rate, and the same work ethic? That’s probably a big question, would they have thought in the very beginning, ‘We’ve got to produce an album every six months, and singles.’ I think the thing that might have stopped them was the sort of speed at which you’re meant to operate. But then some people, Drake, Rihanna, and now Ed are starting to operate at the same speed The Beatles did operate at. So I think, my opinion is that they would be the biggest band in the world.
To understand how history originally played out for the band is to begin to see just what they brought to the table, which in their case was a unique blend of varying influences and tastes that generated something that truly is magic. The world can always use a little bit of peaceful magic to keep spinning for all that live on its surface, especially if it’s in a world where Harry Potter doesn’t exist.
The Beatles’ contribution to the world of music and pop culture are undeniably invaluable to the way the world has developed. Yesterday not only understands this concept, but uses it to the best extent, as Jack Malik’s rise to fame is very similar to that of the band that inspired him. It’s where the film’s concept gets most of its steam, as the connections of fandom and inspiration form to tell a story that is positively entertaining, in a world that could definitely use some feel-good movies to spare.
With the reaction of the surviving bandmates and those closest to the ones who have passed being an affirming experience, Yesterday used its understanding of the band to create a film that needs to be seen to be believed. Yesterday is in theaters now, but if you’ve already seen that film and would like to see what’s next up on your movie going itinerary, head over to the 2019 release schedule for further information!