This one immediately goes on my list of Best Films of 2019, and it might even be the very best of those I’ve seen so far. The premise is fairly simple. Jack Malik, an unsuccessful wannabe rock writer and performer, is hit by a bus. When he comes to, he soon discovers that he is in an alternate reality where the Beatles never existed. Mention John, Paul, George, and Ringo, and you get a blank look. (There is also no such thing as Coca-Cola, only Pepsi, a real bummer, too, in my opinion.) But he knows all the songs! (Well, he struggles with some of the lyrics, such as trying to remember who was darning socks, Eleanor Rigby or Father McKenzie.) When he performs “Yesterday,” his friends are stunned at how good it is. One thing leads to another, and soon he is rock’s newest superstar. That’s really all you need to know, plotwise. It never really surprised me much, but that’s okay. It made me feel very, very good, and it did it without ever copping out or cheating.
One of the co-stars is Ed Sheeran. I am so out of touch with music these days that I didn’t realize he is an actual star until the credits rolled. I will hand it to the guy, he was willing to play it as being as stunned as everyone else, conceding that these “new” songs are better than anything he ever wrote. That earned him a lot of points in my book. Lennon and McCartney were the best rock writers in history, there can be little debate about that. I think it us unlikely anyone will ever be better, given the sad state of the music “industry” these days.
It was directed by Danny Boyle, best known for Trainspotting and the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire. Written by Richard Curtis, who has created several quite good comedy films, but will always be known to me as the co-writer of the absolutely brilliant Blackadder and Mr. Bean shows. And I want to congratulate the team for not going the easy route and casting a white man as Jack. Himesh Patel is as British as Prince Charles, but of Indian ancestry. He does his own singing, plays the guitar and piano, and does a great job of it all.