By John Brindley - Staff Author
YESTERDAY, the new Beatles film that opened in Britain’s cinemas on Friday night, is far more than an entertaining musical rom com fantasy.
It is also a thinly veiled version of the ‘Paul is dead’ story or, more poignantly the pros and cons of the extraordinary life of Paul McCartney’s replacement whom I will subsequently refer to as William Shepherd.
In the lead role of Jack Malik is Himesh Patel who plays a talented but struggling singer, songwriter and musician who goes unnoticed and unappreciated wherever he plays.
He is on the very brink of giving up when suddenly a freak accident changes his life forever.
Thrown from a car, he wakes up in hospital and comes to the gradual realisation that the world suffered a short power cut and he seems to be the only person who remembers the music of the Fab Four (or Fab Three and one extra).
This mirrors William’s story in the ‘Paul is dead’ Bible, the remarkable 666 page expose The Memoirs of Billy Shears.
This tells the real-life tale of a session musician called Billy Pepper who plies his trade without any real reward or recognition despite his undoubted ability and versatility.
Giving it best and getting a ‘real’ job was a prospect for William too.
Like Jack Malik, his life is transformed through a car accident – the one that allegedly killed James Paul McCartney on November 9 1966.
Both in the film and in the book, the lead characters get an offer that’s very, very difficult to refuse.
They are approached by a senior person in the music industry with the lure of almost overnight fame and fortune.
Yet there’s a huge personal and psychological cost in both cases.
Jack must leave behind his soul mate and manager, Ellie Appleton played by Lily James, but also wrestles with his conscience as he recreates Beatles music, he knows in his heart is not his own.
William explains in the book that he had to take on a completely new life when accepting the role as Macca. A small number of people he trusted were sworn to secrecy, for others he disappeared into thin air.
And although, like Jack, he knew The Beatles songs he was simultaneously creating new songs and music post 1966 but also presenting earlier songs as if they were his own.
Naturally, particularly in the early days, he feared his cover could be blown at any moment.
Another stark reference to Paul’s death comes in footage of Eleanor Rigby.
The film shows a headstone with her name on it and a nearly empty church scene.
In the book William says this same person was buried in the same graveyard where Paul was secretly put to rest. The words of Father McKenzie ‘writing the words to a sermon that no one will hear’ reflect the enforced anonymity of the occasion.
Jack becomes such a huge star that he even puts Ed Shearon – yes, the real one – into the shade just as Paul II, using precisely the same talents that got him nowhere previously, has become one of the richest and most successful people in show business.
There is a touching moment when Jack is confronted by two people who do recall The Beatles and they thank him for bringing back their music to the world.
This is how William wishes to be remembered. Because, save for him, The Beatles would probably have folded in 1966.
There’s an interesting touch, too, when Jack meets John Lennon (Robert Carlyle) who, unlike in real life, had made it to the age of 78.
John, of course, doesn’t recognise Jack, just as his real-life relationship with McCartney changed dramatically after 1966.
The ending is interesting and begs an obvious question.
Jack chooses the big Wembley stage to confess to his imitation – and his love for Ellie (it is a rom com, after all).
The film then closes with him returning to obscurity but in the company of people who love and understand him.
Will William ever publicly tell the truth?
I would strongly argue he already has, but only those with ears to hear and eyes to see are any the wiser.
Sorry if that synopsis takes some of the fun out of watching a largely enjoyable film.
Perhaps instead you will watch it for different reasons!
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