What would modern life be like if the Beatles had never existed?
Absurd question, you say?
Of course, and if you can’t swallow that as a premise (or muster enough curiosity to find out what happens), don’t bother to see director Danny Boyle’s “Yesterday,” which posits exactly that.
The setup is even crazier: A British busker of modest talent named Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) wakes up after a worldwide Y2K-type electrical blackout and is hit by a bus. When he comes to, he grabs his guitar and plays the Beatles’ “Yesterday,” which triggers no apparent recognition but brings tears to the eyes of his listeners.
Screenwriter Richard Carter provides the original Jack the busker with a probably unnecessary manager (why does a nobody like Jack need one?) in Ellie (Lily James), who is adorable and is (or isn’t) Jack’s girlfriend.
But back to the situation at hand. Googling “Beatles” only returns articles about insects.
Well, what would you do if you were a hungry musician? Yep, he passes the Fab Four’s songs off as his own, becoming famous (and much richer) in the process. Even singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran (playing himself) invites Jack to tour with his band.
“Saturday Night Live’s” Kate McKinnon adds to the merriment with her portrayal of (well-named) publicist Debra Hammer, determined to cash in on the public’s apparent approval of Jack’s newly discovered talent.
If in your world the Beatles weren’t gods – or if you’d just like to hear a different interpretation of the group’s music – know that Patel’s Jack is both an engaging character and a good musician and that the film is an amusing way to spend a summer evening.
If it seems a bit much that Jack soon becomes known as the “Shakespeare of popular music,” pour yourself a little libation and enjoy the other “Yesterday.”
Now playing. Check local listings.