Warning: SPOILERS for Yesterday.
Yesterday imagines a world where The Beatles and their music never existed, but it turns out the Fab Four aren't the only things that vanished. In Danny Boyle's romantic comedy/fantasy, a mysterious blackout occurred all over the world that plunged the entire planet into 12 seconds of simultaneous darkness. When the lights came back on, no one was any the wiser of the massive but seemingly random changes the blackout magically brought - no one, that is, except for Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), a struggling UK-based musician and Beatles fan.
During the pivotal 12 seconds of the blackout, Jack was hit by a truck while riding his bicycle and, during his recovery, discovered that nobody else remembered The Beatles. After some jokes fell flat, when Jack sang "Yesterday" for Ellie Appleton (Lily James) and their friends, he was angered when they all believed that he wrote the classic song and that they were all playing an elaborate joke on him. But when Jack Googled 'The Beatles' and only got search results of the insects, it began to dawn on him that the unthinkable had happened - John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr never formed the Fab Four!
The ramifications of a world without The Beatles - and Jack becoming a world-famous rock star by recording and performing The Beatles' classic songs as his own - comprises the main plot of Yesterday. However, throughout the film, Jack also gradually learns that the band from Liverpool isn't the only thing that has vanished from the world since the blackout. There are other things he remembers that used to exist which are now inexplicably gone. Because Yesterday is a rom-com, it's focused on Jack's story and his relationship with Ellie, meaning that the cause of the blackout is left unexplained. Still, there are some fascinating other changes to Yesterday's Beatles-less world.
Oasis joins The Beatles as a band that never existed in Yesterday's altered reality. After Jack accepted that The Beatles had vanished from the world, he Googled other bands, starting with The Rolling Stones, but the Mick Jagger-fronted band were undisturbed. Jack also found out Coldplay still existed because his friends praised their song "Fix You". And, of course, Ed Sheeran remains a huge pop star; he appears as himself in Yesterday and helped launch Jack's global superstardom. However, another group that Jack searched for was Oasis and all the results he found were about watering holes in the desert.
Heavily inspired by The Beatles (hence them not existing in this new world), the English rock band fronted by brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher was hugely successful in their own right before the feuding siblings disbanded the group in 2009. Oasis' heyday was in the mid-1990s when they released their multi-platinum albums Definitely Maybe and (What's The Story) Morning Glory?, the latter of which was UK's biggest selling album of the 1990s. Jack's ties to Oasis are very personal: in 2004, young Jack performed Oasis' "Wonderwall" at a school talent show and it was this performance that captured the young Ellie's devotion to him.
Coca-Cola also disappeared from Yesterday's world, which Jack discovered when his mother brought him a Pepsi and had no idea what her son was talking about when he asked for a Coke. Jack's desire for Coca-Cola became a running joke that returned when he and his roadie Rocky (Joel Fry) joined Ed Sheeran on tour. After boarding Ed's private plane, Jack scandalized the flight attendant when he asked for "Coke", which she automatically assumed meant cocaine.
In the real world, Coca-Cola is one of the biggest and most recognizable brand names on Earth, along with Apple and Google. Coca-Cola products are available in over 200 countries and over 1.8 billion Coca-Cola products are consumed each day. Unfortunately, the astonishing ramifications of a brand as huge as Coca-Cola disappearing from history aren't something Yesterday explored beyond the comedy of Jack being unable to enjoy a Coke. At the very least it means that in Yesterday's new reality, Pepsi-Cola automatically won the Cola Wars because Pepsi's dominance in the marketplace was unchallenged.
One unexpected benefit of the blackout changing the world is that cigarettes never existed in Yesterday's reality. Jack learns this after a particularly stressful moment in Los Angeles where he asked Rocky for a cigarette and his friend had never heard of such a thing. Yesterday didn't delve any further into cigarettes vanishing from history or its implications but this must mean the Big Tobacco industry never rose, which would then also produce the happy result that people in Yesterday's world are healthier because there are no cigarette-related cases of lung cancer.
Beyond the disappearance of The Beatles, arguably the most shocking, seemingly random erasure from Yesterday's universe is Harry Potter. Jack discovered that Harry Potter never existed at the end of Yesterday after he spent the night with Ellie; he equated their passion with how Harry must have felt when he beat Lord Voldemort and Ellie had no idea what Jack was talking about.
No Harry Potter in Yesterday's universe must mean J.K. Rowling never wrote the seven novels (and supplemental works) that made her one of the world's wealthiest and most successful authors. No novels also means no movie franchise, no merchandise, no Fantastic Beasts spinoffs, no Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme parks, and no passionate fanbase that grew up with the boy wizard's adventures at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It's certainly curious that Yesterday's world lacks major British contributions to pop culture like The Beatles and Harry Potter and it's a bit of a shame the film doesn't delve deeper into the hows and whys.
- Yesterday (2019) release date: Jun 28, 2019