I went to see the movie Yesterday because I wanted the distraction of a romantic comedy. I didn’t know that it would make me cry.
It’s a movie about love and music. Not any music, mind you, but all the tunes written by the Beatles from Help to Hey Jude. Director Danny Boyle spins a tale that revolves around a mysterious global blackout that totally erases all memory of the Beatles (and of Coke, co-incidentally).
Only one struggling folk singer, Jack Malik, seems to remember the words to the Beatles tunes. First, he struggles to recall the exact lyrics, then he is entertaining crowds with a tender rendition of Let It Be. When Malik meets the singer Ed Sheeran and goes on tour, he is launched on a musical juggernaut.
Enter an evil record industry exec, hilariously played by Kate McKinnon of Saturday Night Live. I couldn’t help but laugh at the outrageous lies and manipulation she uses to get her new client to the top of the charts.
Malik feels the draw of the spotlight and he enters willingly, choosing fame over a chance to love the girl back home.
Any movie viewer worth a grain of salt knows where this one is headed. Its characters are so sweet, the music so endearing, that happiness surely will be their final reward.
Then Malik seeks out a stranger in a small cottage on the sea somewhere in England. The door opens and John Lennon, played by an actor made up to look like the Beatle at age 78, appears. With round wire-frame glasses, he captures Lennon’s essence to a T. That’s when my tears started to flow.
The idea that Lennon is still alive overwhelmed me, reminding me of our lost hope for a better world.
I remember the night he was murdered in Manhattan. I lived in the East Village at the time and word of his death ricocheted around town. A man driving down my street rolled down his window and shouted “John Lennon is dead.” A friend came running over, and we shared our grief.
Outside Lennon’s apartment building on the Upper West Side, hundreds of fans stood outside all night mourning the loss of a man who had asked if we could give peace a chance. Even before his death, I was beginning to doubt that the world could ever be changed for the good of humankind but Lennon’s songs provided a shred of hope.
Seeing Lennon’s character alive on screen, living humbly amid the simple beauty of the seaside, I cried for all we have lost since then, for the disappointment I felt remembering our shared dreams of peace. I thought of how fear-mongering and hatred are on the rise in the U.S. and abroad. Where is the visionary who will get us back on track?
My eyes still get weepy when I picture Lennon. His image makes me want to believe again, be inspired by song again, to return to yesterday.