As a long time Beatles fan, who watched the iconic group make their American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, I eagerly awaited another debut. This time it was a rom-com musical stroll down memory lane and Penny Lane. In Yesterday, directed By Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) a stretch of the imagination has singer-songwriter with limited professional success Jack Malik (played by the beguiling Himesh Patel) performing to tiny audiences in his small town in England. His most ardent cheerleader and best friend is Ellie Appleton (beautifully cast in the person of Lily James).  She is manager-chauffer and roadie all rolled into one. It is easy to see the charming energy between them, but neither of them acknowledges the deeper connection until later in the film.

On his way home from a disappointing gig, he is riding his bike and in a flash (literally) all the power goes out worldwide. He has a run-in with a bus which knocks out two teeth but doesn’t knock out his memory of a band that apparently no one else on the globe knows, because, in this alternate reality, the Beatles never existed. He even Googles their name collectively and individually and all he comes up with are images of insects and Pope John Paul.  Throughout the movie, there are a few other cultural references that seem to be missing as well. Imagine the opportunity he has to get his career out of the basement by ‘writing’ their hits. It begins with the title song that he strums and sings to his friends who listen with rapt attention and tear up over the beauty of it. He realizes that he can re-create all of the classics and no one is the wiser. He skyrockets to success and yet, his conscience can’t allow him to fully enjoy the ride. It is as if he is looking over his shoulder to see if he will eventually be caught.

His talent comes to the attention of Ed Sheeran who plays himself and he takes Jack under his wing and invites him to open for him in Moscow where Jack shreds it on Back in the USSR. While he is there, a stranger stands in the audience; a man who with a woman who witnesses Jack making a pilgrimage to Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields so he can get a feel for the inspirations of two of the Beatles most beloved songs, visit him in a dressing room after a concert. The reason for their interest in Jack’s musical mojo will be revealed in that encounter. Another sweet and serendipitous meeting occurs after the woman hands him a folded up piece of paper. Without giving it away, know that it poses the question, truly WHAT IF the Beatles never existed? How would certain lives have changed?

Two other colorful characters are Rocky (his ne’er do well roadie), played by Joel Fry,  who steps up and assists Jack in coming clean about his love for Ellie, and his manager Debra played with perfect pitch bitchiness by SNL comic Kate McKinnon. They help keep the energy flowing and provide some comic support. Jack’s parents who are bewildered and pleased by their son’s rise to stardom are portrayed by Meera Syal and Sanjeev Bhaskar.

Every Beatles fan will enjoy the catalog of their best-known songs, rendered in style ranging from ballad to rock.

I won’t spoil the ending which was different than I imagined it to be, but I have to say, I loved it more. Let the long and winding road lead you to the nearest theater to go back to yesterday.

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