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Movie Review

A blackout swept around the entire globe. Things went missing.

But Jack remembered.

Just the night before, Jack had decided to bail on his dream of being a performer. And the truth is, it wasn't even a hard decision. His songs are insipidly bland. He's not all that personable or attractive. His singer-songwriter shtick barely draws flies. So, what's the point? Time to go back to a "real" job, he figures.

To be frank, pretty much all Jack has going for him is his best friend and manager, Ellie. She's his polar opposite. Where he's dark and gloomy, she's sunny. Where he sees the worst, she spots the silver lining. He's a rumpled schlub, she's girl-next-door beautiful.

On top of all that, Ellie is dedicated and encouraging, and she regularly picks him up after every miserable performance stumble. It's been that way ever since elementary school, where the two of them met after Jack performed an Oasis song at a school talent show.

Ellie is like Jack's best friend, sister, guardian angel and primary cheerleader all wrapped up in one adorable package. And it's not that Jack can't see all that wonderfulness; he just has a hard time seeing … past his own flaws.

But then the blackout happens.

Par for the course, the lights blink out and Jack is promptly hit by a bus, knocked off his bike and sent face-first into the asphalt in the pitch black. When he wakes up, he missing two front teeth and has a face full of bruises and cuts.

After being released from the hospital, Jack gets together with some friends. Of course, they're all focused on how many jokes they can come up with about his vibrant road-rash makeover. Everyone except loyal Ellie, that is. While the others tease, she just smiles winsomely and presents him with a new guitar she'd purchased to replace the one broken during in the accident.

"The accident was a message from God," Ellie declares brightly. "God doesn't want you to give up your music." She earnestly means every word.

Jack takes the guitar gratefully and sits to play a song. (Not one of his own, mind you. Why make anyone suffer through that?) Instead, he plays The Beatles' "Yesterday." That seems fitting.

Then something amazing happens: His friends sit there listening, with their mouths hanging open in rapt amazement. Ellie nearly cries. "When did you write that?" she asks, wiping a tear from her eye.

Jack thinks she and all the others are just having him on. Another joke at his expense. He even gets a little angry at their teasing. OK, so he doesn't sing it like McCartney. But who does?

It's only later that Jack realizes that Ellie wasn't joking. And he soon discovers why none of his friends recognized that iconic Beatles song. According to the internet, the British group never existed. There was never a Paul McCartney or a "Yesterday" or Beatlemania or anything. Nor were there a number of other things. Coca-Cola anyone? Smoking? The band Oasis? Nope. Nada. Not in this universe.

How could this be? Jack wonders. What does it mean? But then a bigger question hits him: What now?

Slowly, the implications of it all begin to sink in: If this is true, he's the only person in the world who's ever heard some of the most revolutionary pop songs ever written. In fact, any time he plays one, people instantly think he's the author. The Lennon-McCartney catalogue is apparently his to do with as he pleases. Suddenly his dreams of fame and acclaim are well within his reach.

All Jack has to do now is remember the songs chords and lyrics. Oh, and not crack under the increasing pressure of being crowned as the greatest pop genius in history for songs he didn't actually write.

Positive Elements

Jack's seeming good fortune does indeed generate fame and wealth for him. But he eventually realizes that those longed-for rewards can come at an unexpectedly high price. To gain them, he has to sacrifice things that he really values, including an important relationship and his own integrity.

Ellie, for her part, is always consistent, supportive and loving toward Jack. "I want you to be happy," she earnestly tells him, even though she obviously knows he's not making the wisest choices—choices that are quietly breaking her heart.

The film suggests that the simple joys of life—love, marriage, family—yield the richest, most satisfying rewards. For instance, Jack meets a man who was famous and died young in Jack's world; but in this alternate reality, he's a simple man who lived a long, productive life. The man speaks warmly of the joys of loving dearly, and living plainly and having integrity. He suggests that there's a simple way for Jack to deal with his own relational woes: "Tell the girl you love that you love her," the man says warmly. "And tell the truth whenever you can." That lesson is reinforced by the time the credits roll.

Spiritual Content

As mentioned above, Ellie declares that she believes God wants Jack to perform and share his musical gifts. Real world pop singer Ed Sheeran takes an interest in Jack, and his manager, Debra, takes Jack on as a client. She suggests that Sheeran is the equivalent of John the Baptist, "Basically warming the world up for you, The Messiah!" We also see a reference to the pope on a computer screen.

Sexual Content

It quickly becomes clear that Jack and Ellie have never had a physically intimate side to their longstanding relationships. "Not once," Ellie proclaims when someone presumes they've had sex (though she does, perhaps jokingly, reference other casual flings she's had). Their physical contact is generally limited to a hug and a peck on the cheek. (In fact, a good friend of Jack's named Rocky repeatedly mentions, in lightly crude terms, that if he were Jack he would get physical with Ellie in a hurry.)

Ellie casually enquires about Jack's sex life after he becomes a rock star. Jack self-consciously admits that there was a certain Russian girl he connected with. That encounter apparently took place after someone told Jack he should find someone to "shag" following a mesmerizing performance.

As their relationship gradually progress, Jack and Ellie grow more affectionate as Jack realizes he has feelings for her, too. One booze-filled night ends with the pair of them in Jack's hotel room, where they begin kissing passionately. It looks as if they're about to consummate their relationship, but Ellie worries that Jack still isn't willing to make an emotional commitment that matches the physical one. "I have no desire to be a one night stand," Ellie tells him before awkwardly and abruptly leaving. Soon, Jack learns that she's in a relationship with one of their other friends.

Eventually they do share a night together. We see them tumble onto a bed locked in an embrace, but the camera cuts away after that. (We see Jack shirtless the next morning as Ellie wraps her arms around him while standing at a bedroom window.) They voice their love for each other. [Spoiler Warning] Shortly after that consummation, they marry and have a couple of children.

Some of Ellie's outfits reveal cleavage. Jack's manager at one point tries to kiss him, perhaps intent on something more, but the two of them are interrupted.

Violent Content

Jack gets hit by a bus while riding on a dark street, and he lands painfully on his face. After the accident, he just lies on the ground barely moving and moaning until someone from the bus helps him. He's hospitalized, his face a bruised and swollen mess (and now minus two teeth).

Crude or Profane Language

Several s-words and one unfinished pairing of "mother" with the f-word join exclamations of "a--" and "h---" and a half dozen uses of "d--n." Jesus' name is misused about eight times, and God's is profaned a half dozen times (twice in combination with the word "d--"). We also hear quite a few uses of the British profanity "bloody."

Drug and Alcohol Content

Jack, Ellie and most of the other characters drink beer, wine or champagne regularly and at nearly every social and party setting. In a couple cases, Ellie gets a bit tipsy and unsteady on her feet. One time, she and Jack party all night, consuming beer, glasses of brandy and about a dozen or so small bottles of booze from a hotel room's mini-bar. They both get quite drunk.

At one point, Jack asks for a Coke and a flight attendant balks, thinking he's referencing the narcotic (since Coca-Cola and cigarettes don't exist in this alternate reality).

Jack's slightly goofy friend Rocky self-describes himself as a "useless druggy and drunk" (which is a fairly accurate self-portrait), and indeed we do see him seemingly under the influence on a regular basis. Even when he claims to be sober at one point, he quickly amends that statement to admit he's already had a couple of drinks that day.

Other Negative Elements

Jack lies repeatedly about his songwriting abilities. That said, the ongoing deception clearly takes a toll on him as well, which suggests that the film understands the cost of living a lie.

Jack's friends aren't always very kind in their teasing ways. And Jack's new manager, Debra, repeatedly grouses about having to deal with the fact that Jack is so physically unappealing and unpresentable. She's also driven by a single motivation in life: making money. And she makes it plain that she'll take advantage of anyone, including Jack, to stockpile more of it.

Conclusion

The Beatles famously opined that even a pile of cash "Can't Buy Me Love." No matter who you are, though, it can be pretty tempting to sit back after a hard day's night and fantasize about having, or being, more. It's a temptation, albeit perhaps a theoretical one, that we're all vulnerable to:

What if a roving Hollywood rep spotted your photogenic grace via social media?

What if the lead singer of your favorite band heard you singing along at a concert and invited you onstage to take over?

What if the local sports team inexplicably recognized your superior athletic gifts and offered you a multi-million dollar contract to sign with them?

Of course, in the face of all those fantasy what ifs, it's always good to have something that'll bring you safely back to Earth, too: some person to point at the truly valuable stuff of life and remind you of the possible costs that accompany fame, ease and plenty. Yesterday is that kind of fable-like reminder. It's sentimentally sweet, funny, endearing and thoughtful. And it's filled with tons of incredible Beatles tunes to boot.

However—and this is a pretty sizable however—there are a number of things in this romantic comedy that could leave moviegoers hesitant about making this flight of fancy their date -night choice. Viewers will need to navigate quite a bit of drinking and some suggestively sensual moments. On top of that, there are enough profane misuses of Jesus' name alone to make many viewers, uh, "Twist and Shout."

All in all, Yesterday's missteps may leave some viewers pining for the even sweeter movie it could have been.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Genre

Author

Cast

Himesh Patel as Jack Malik; Lily James as Ellie Appleton; Joel Fry as Rocky; Kate McKinnon as Debra Hammer; Ed Sheeran as himself

Director

Danny Boyle ( )

Distributor

Universal Pictures

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

June 28, 2019

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
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