CREDIT: Jonathan Prine/Universal

Yesterday raises a lot of questions, most of which has no interest in answering. First off:

-Why does the global blackout erase the Beatles from existence, and why is Jack Malik (Hamish Patel) apparently the only one who remembers them?

I am perfectly fine that this goes unaddressed, because the “why” is less important than the “where do we go from here?” Which brings me to:

-Shouldn’t the Beatles’ absence make the world profoundly different?

To which Yesterday answers by implication: no, not that much. There is one band that was heavily influenced by the Fab Four that is also now no more, but the rest of music history appears to be intact. The blackout has also removed some other things from existence, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with the main premise. Those reveals are played for (decent) laughs, but they also raise their own existential questions (which remain unaddressed). But back to how the Beatles changed the world. Their cultural influence was so wide-reaching that it is just silly not to examine what an alternative history would have been like without them. Moving on…

-If the Beatles never came to be, does that mean the band members don’t exist either?

It is heavily implied that Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are still somewhere, and Jack is in constant fear that he might somehow meet them and thus have to answer for passing off their music as his own. As for the two deceased lads … they are not entirely ignored either. Of course, this all raises the subquestion (which is barely touched upon): if they weren’t making the music that defined a decade, then what were they up to? But getting back to Jack’s fear:

-How much of the Beatles’ success was due not just to the songwriting, but to the people who performed it?

The lyrics of “Yesterday” and “Let It Be” are beautiful no matter who’s singing them, but Jack obviously doesn’t have the personal connection to them that the lads from Liverpool did, a fact that is introduced as quite a hitch … and then promptly ignored thereafter.

All these quandaries are given short shrift because ultimately Yesterday is really about the love story between Jack and his manager/childhood friend Ellie (Lily James). And it turns out that the main conflict is about Jack choosing between becoming a global superstar or getting things started with Ellie. I don’t understand why he can’t have both. I do understand his guilt over pretending he wrote the greatest songs ever written. But he and Ellie have such hilariously few non-obstacles to ending up together.

So look, I’ve been harping on Yesterday‘s shortcomings but I don’t really hate it. It’s got oodles of Beatles music, of course, but also I like having this conversation of drilling down on these questions. I just wish the movie itself had contributed more to the conversation.

I give Yesterday 2.5 Hands for Jude to Hold.

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