This article contains spoilers for Yesterday.
“Are you crying?” asked my son, 17, with ions of distaste pinging off him in the theater’s half-darkness. We were watching the silliest scene in the very silly Yesterday, and I was indeed snuffling. I was sentimentally seeping. I was crying. Why? Because—in the universe proposed by the movie—John Lennon did not get assassinated in December 1980. He didn’t get abruptly taken from us. No, John is living quietly by the sea, age 78.
You may have heard about Yesterday. Written by Richard Curtis, directed by Danny Boyle, the whole movie spins and jangles out of one gorgeously bananas premise. After a power surge in the biosphere, or a fluky gust of solar radiation, or something, reality winks out for 12 seconds—and when it buzzes back online, everything’s the same as before. With one difference: The Beatles never existed. The Beatles, Beatlemania, the solo careers—it’s all been wiped. Except, singularly, from the brain of a failed musician named Jack Malik, unconscious during the reality-wrinkle owing to a fortuitous bicycle accident. Jack (played by Himesh Patel) remembers some Beatles songs, and when he starts scuffing them out for people on his guitar, they not unnaturally assume that he is the greatest singer-songwriter who has ever lived.