Yesterday: What, Besides the Beatles, Is Missing From the Film's World?


In director Danny Boyle's Yesterday, Jack Malik is a struggling singer/songwriter who's wakes up one day to discover the Beatles never existed, and he's the only one who remembers them. The rest of the film follows his meteoric rise to fame as he starts to pass off the band's catalog as his own, but it also features a running gag surrounding all the other things that disappear overnight for Jack and the rest of the world.

At first Jack (Hamish Patel) just searches bands, and realizes that his own idols, Oasis, have also turned up missing, and Googling them only results in pictures of actual oases. The Same goes for Coca-Cola (Google results in "cocaine") and cigarettes (Cigarette, France). Most notably, at the very end, Jack discovers Harry Potter is also among the fallen.

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The film concludes with Jack faced with the temptation of somehow turning J.K. Rowling's work into a masterpiece for this world, too, and it's unclear whether he decides to go for it. But beyond the nifty joke of seeing Jack discover huge cultural elements of his life are suddenly missing, Yesterday doesn't fancy itself a particularly supernatural film beyond the premise. There's virtually no butterfly effect, other than what Jack does to change his own life.

Even though the Beatles (and the other missing parties) clearly have places of significance in popular culture, their absence changes literally nothing about Jack's present. People simply drink Pepsi, don't smoke, and haven't heard of "Yellow Submarine" or "Wonderwall." It winds up being part of Yesterday's charm that it doesn't take itself seriously enough to interrogate its premise too much.

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This film is more of a musical tribute/rom-com than it is a Leftovers-type sci-fi drama. But the revealed insignificance of things like Coke or Marlboro could also be Boyle's way of conveying how ultimately futile and pointless additions to human society those products could be. Or he just thought it was funny to have Jack keep furiously Googling things that don't exist.

Directed by Danny Boyle from a story by Richard Curtis and Jack Barth, Yesterday stars Himesh Patel, Lily James, Ed Sheeran and Kate McKinnon. The film is in theaters now.

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