After posting my own review of Yesterday I had a little look at what other people had written about it and there was quite a lot of reference to one particular scene. No one is saying which scene they mean because to refer to it in any detail would be a spoiler but if you’ve seen the movie you will know exactly what they are talking about.
It seems that some feel this moment was misjudged which doesn’t surprise me as initially I wasn’t sure what I made of it myself. Having gently mulled in over for a few days though I think I’m okay with it.
I’m speaking, of course, about the sequence in the last act where Robert Carlyle turns up as an aged John Lennon. I assume the distaste is to do with them bringing Lennon back from the dead but personally I don’t think this was disrespectful. If they had tried to create a computer generated version of the man as they did with Peter Cushing in Rogue One or Audrey Hepburn in that chocolate ad, that wouldn’t have played well but it is just an actor, in make up, playing an alternate movie version of a famous person. People have played Lennon in films before and I know that generally what he has been depicted doing on screen is ostensibly stuff he did in real life so no one is putting words in his mouth but actually, if it’s an even slightly altered or exaggerated version of his life then yes they are. This isn’t really isn’t any different.
The things they have Lennon say and do in this film are fine too. They haven’t got him selling a product or extending or reframing any of his actual work, he is just painting and enjoying life in his cottage on the coast. The worst thing he does is to be a little judgmental of Himesh Patel’s Jack which is fair. I suppose the other criticism is that this whole section just wasn’t necessary and to address this we need to consider the role it plays in the story.
This whole part of the film is about Jack finding justification in what he is doing. Is he ethically and morally right to capitalise on a load of songs that he didn’t write himself when everyone thinks he did? They have already established that as one of only three people in the world who knows The Beatles’ music, and the only one who can play an instrument and sing, it is almost his duty to get them out there. If anything the Lennon scene complicates this as it shows that the someone who should have ownership of the tunes, at least one of the someones, is around and exists so the work really is stolen.
Of course what the film is saying is that it is okay that this creative force has been taken from Lennon because this has saved him from being killed. Now, this is problematic and the reason why I first had problems with this bit of the film myself. What it highlights though is that success did come at a terrible cost for The Beatles; it cost John his life. There is no getting away from the fact that he was shot because of who he was and what he had become, because a dangerously ill man wanted some fame for himself. I think it is right that any film that celebrates The Beatles acknowledges this tragedy. It wasn’t all boppy tunes that make you want to dance, there is real melancholy and sadness to this tale, as there actually was in lots of the music, and this is a part of the history of the band.
If the inclusion of Lennon had been throw away and lacklustre then that would have given it something to answer for too but it isn’t. The point at which he opens the door has real power, partly because you’ve been expecting it to be Paul McCartney but mostly because with all that’s been going on you’d kind have forgotten that this guy whose genius the film has been celebrating never saw old age. I’m not 100% sure that the inclusion of the scene isn’t somehow wrong but it is also kind of right.