Yesterday, there was The Beatles, but no more in Danny Boyle’s new film. After a global blackout one night, musician Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) wakes up the next morning and plays Yesterday to his friends. They are surprised by Jack’s songwriting talent (sorry, Paul McCartney), and so is Jack, for all traces of The Beatles and their music have vanished after the blackout.
Jack takes advantage of the erasure to rise to superstardom as a musical prodigy. He tours the world performing songs created by The Beatles, while fighting the knowledge that he has stolen his music from one of the world’s greatest bands. “Until a month ago, you were a complete failure,” a character observes. “And then somehow you became the biggest star in the world. As if by magic. So what happened?” Don’t ask Jack.
The story is by Jack Barth and the screenplay by Richard Curtis, the writer of Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) and Notting Hill (1999) and the director of Love Actually (2003). The film also stars Lily James, Kate McKinnon, Sanjeev Bhasker, and pop star Ed Sheeran, who seems to be taking digs at himself. In one scene in the trailer, Sheeran’s character suggests that Jack change the lyrics of Hey Jude to “Hey Dude”.
Yesterday features new versions of songs by The Beatles. The two surviving members of the Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, are expected to make appearances in the June 28 release. John Lennon was shot dead in 1980, while George Harrison died in 2001.
Previous movies about The Beatles and their music include Julie Taymor’s musical Across the Universe (2007) and Sam Taylor-Wood’s Nowhere Boy (2009), which traces John Lennon’s formative years. A restored version of the documentary Imagine, featuring Lennon and his second wife Yoko Ono, was released in September 2018. Peter Jackson is also working on a documentary based on 55 hours of unseen footage from the recording sessions of their final album Let It Be.