Help! ‘Yesterday’ Can’t Buy Me Love. So Run for Your Life, or Just Let It Be ...

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As a critic and lover of cinema, I always try to come to films with an open mind. But I can’t deny it: A Danny Boyle production in which all but one person has forgotten that the Beatles ever existed was not something that I could ever welcome impartially. Like all crazy-premise, cause-and-effect-style science fiction, Yesterday triggered so much speculative forethought in my mind before I saw it. If the Beatles didn’t exist, who would be the alpha dog of ’60s pop music? Would Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge!, whose love medleys includes “All You Need Is Love” and Wings’ “Silly Love Songs,” even exist? What about Monty Python’s Life of Brian, produced by George Harrison? The hypotheticals and counterfactuals are virtually endless. But what worried me most was the stance that the film would take with regard to the Beatles themselves. Imagine there’s no Beatles—but what for? (By the way, what would happen to “Imagine?”)