REVIEW: ‘Yesterday’ is a modern-day parable about sin and fame
The film Yesterday opens this weekend, telling the story of a singer who wakes up in a world where the Beatles never existed.
Jack Malik is a talented musician who has a great voice and a flair for playing the guitar.
So far, though, few people have noticed. His late-night gigs draw merely a smattering of applause. His appearance at a music festival attracts a crowd of about 20—many of them friends.
“I can’t do this anymore,” he tells his manager and friend, Ellie. “… This is my last gig.”
Then a miracle happens, seemingly straight out of a science fiction novel.
Jack is hit by a bus at the exact moment Earth experiences a brief worldwide blackout. He survives the crash but soon discovers everyone has changed.
For starters, no one remembers the Beatles.
“When did you write that?” Ellie asks him after he sings a tune by the ground-breaking group.
“I didn’t write it,” Jack says. “Paul McCartney wrote it.”
“Who?” she asks.
Jack searches his album collection for his Beatles records… and comes up empty. He types “Beatles” into Google… and finds pictures of bugs.
Suddenly, Jack faces a dilemma: If no one on Earth can remember Beatles songs, could he sing them and claim them as his own?
The film Yesterday (PG-13) opens this weekend, telling the story of a man who supposedly becomes the world’s most talented musician by singing songs written by someone else. It stars Himesh Patel as Jack, Lily James (Cinderella) as Ellie, singer Ed Sheeran as himself, and Kate McKinnon as his new manager.
The film is part-science fiction and part-comedy, mixed with a parable-type plot about honesty, money, fame and love.
At first, Jack is incredulous about his situation. But once he becomes a superstar, the weight of his fame becomes unbearable. The studio slaps a label on his album stating, “All songs, music and lyrics by Jack Malik only.”
“I feel like I’ve become the definition of living a lie,” he says.
Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!
(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)
Minimal/moderate. Jack and Ellie have a budding romance, although it began as “just friends.” We see them kiss passionately one night but Ellie (still clothed) walks out of the bedroom, not wanting a one-night stand. “It’s not for me.” Later, though, they presumably do sleep together (We see them kiss before the scene cuts away). Someone makes jokes about them “making sweet love” (they weren’t at the time). Ellie wears several low-cut dresses. Sheeran’s song Shape of You is heard.
Moderate. Misuse of “Christ” (5), d–n (4), misuse of “God” (3), OMG (3), GD (2), s–t (2), h-ll (2), a– (1), misuse of “Jesus” (1). We also hear the British word “bloody” (4).
Other Positive Elements
Jack comes from a stable, loving home. His parents support his musical ambitions. Ellie refuses to sleep with Jack on a one-night stand (although they later sleep together before marriage). Jack’s friends care for him when he is discouraged; they buy him a new guitar.
Other Stuff You Might Want To Know
Jack, Ellie and their friends drink alcohol.
Sin doesn’t bring lasting happiness: Jack achieves his dream of becoming a famous musician yet cannot enjoy it because of his lies.
Your sins will find you out: I won’t ruin the ending, but Jack isn’t the only person on the planet who remembers the Beatles.
Fame and money aren’t the key to joy: Jack discovers this in a big way.
Confession is good for the soul: Jack wants to tell someone his secret. Finally, he does.
Yesterday implies God had a role in the science fiction-type plot.
“I think the accident was a message from God,” Ellie tells Jack after he gets hit by a bus. “Yeah, He was very angry.”
“You think me getting hit by the bus was God’s way of telling me not to go back to teaching?” he asks.
“Exactly!” she responds.
And before the accident, the two have a back-and-forth conversation about miracles.
“It would take a miracle (to become a successful singer),” he says.
“Miracles happen,” Ellie says.
The film implies that God was testing Jack to see if he would do the right thing.
Yesterday can spark a deep discussion about morality: Would we lie if we knew we’d never get caught? What is our motivation for obeying God’s law? Can a life built on sin bring true joy?
The plot. The acting. The ending. Good, original movies are rare in Hollywood. This one fits both marks.
Kudos to the film’s writers for having Ellie reject a one-night stand. That message would have been even more powerful if she had waited until after they were married.
1. If you woke up in a world like Jack’s world, what would you do? Did he do the right thing?
2. Is our sin always discovered, sooner or later (Numbers 32:23)? Name famous examples of that from history. Are there any examples in your own life?
3. Does money and fame bring joy? Why or why not?
4. Why was Jack unable to enjoy his fame?
Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
Rated PG-13 for suggestive content and language.