I finally was able to catch up on some films I was hoping to catch this summer. One being the new film Yesterday directed by Danny Boyle. Yesterday stars newcomer Himesh Patel as Jack Malik, a struggling musician, who one day wakes up to an altered world where he is the only one who remembers the Beatles. Jack begins to play the Beatles’ music as his own and soon rapidly rises to be an international pop sensation.
Lily James stars alongside Himesh Patel as best friend, manager, and love interest Ellie Appleton. Patel and James have wonderful chemistry together and represent a very likable couple for a romantic comedy. Music star Ed Sheeran also shows up and gives a wonderful slightly self-mocking performance as himself. Yesterday features a wide collection of beautiful covers of the Beatles’ ridiculously long and excellent catalog of music. All are performed by Himesh Patel, who does an excellent job singing as well as acting.
I found Yesterday to be a lovely sweet film with likeable leads, an interesting premise, and excellent music. Yesterday is not a perfect movie but it is a crowd pleasing film featuring an excellent production of Beatles’ music. This is a good film to check for those who enjoy romantic comedies and/or Beatles music.
Yesterday offers up all kinds of interesting questions especially to those of the philosophical bent such as myself. However, I think one the most interesting ideas is raised toward the end of the film. We find out that there are two other people who also remember the world with the Beatles’ music. The tension rises as to whether they are going to out Jack or not. In the moment of confrontation instead of condemning Jack they thank him. This is quite startling, but their reasoning even more so. Neither of them are musicians and they are just thankful to hear Beatles music again. One of the characters states, comforting Jack, “A world without the Beatles is a world that’s infinitely worse.”
One can debate the merits of the Beatles music, though for my money the Beatles are one of the most beautiful songwriting teams of all time. However, I think this quote highlights something most of us intuitively believe whether we have ever taken the time to consider it or not: Art and music make the world a better place; the world would be lacking in some way if we were to lose a beautiful piece of art like Rembrandt’s Raising of the Cross, or Bach’s Six Cello Suites, or Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, or even, yes, the Beatles’ Yesterday. But why is it the case that there is beauty in this world, or why do we value creative expression and beauty in our lives? Why would we believe the world is worse off without the Beatles? What is it we think we are losing? It seems to me that we all recognize the intrinsic value of beauty because we all desire transcendence. When we encounter something beautiful, it has the power to move us beyond ourselves in a way the ugly or mundane cannot.
Ultimately, this desire for beauty I believe is a desire for God, himself, who is the source of all truth, goodness, and beauty. God is the preeminent creator who has created a glorious beautiful world. Truly, “the heavens declare the glory of God.” But not only do the heavens declare his glory and beauty but so do his creatures who are made in his image. As image bearers we reflect the marks of our creator in our creative ability. God has gifted this world by creating people with unique gifts and abilities that can introduce more beauty, grandeur, and goodness into this world. In part we can taste and see that the Lord is good, through the pieces of art created by people who are in the image of and created by the supremely beautiful One.
This also raises another important concept. Which story of the universe provides a better picture of the world? Does the disenchanted naturalistic, reductionistic, materialistic explanation of the secularists, or the enchanted, supernatural, and sacred explanation of the Christian better explain the world we live in? By my lights, the Christian worldview and explanation is much more desirable and beautiful than any alternative.
Apologists Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli in Handbook of Christian Apologetics, give an argument for God from Bach (or really from art and beauty) that goes like this:
There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Therefore there must be a God.
You either see this or you don’t
Many will find this an unconvincing argument, and I myself don’t think in this form it is the most persuasive. But if we understand this argument to really be pointing out that there is beauty in this world, and this is better explained by there being a God than not I think we can see it to be a helpful argument pointing toward God. Apologist, James Sire in Apologetics Beyond Reason, takes this argument and expands upon it. He argues that so much of current apologetics fails to account reaching the heart along with the mind. God has planted throughout the universe both in nature and through artists “signals of transcendence” that point us towards the reality that there is a beautiful Artist who is the Creator of all.
This brings us back to the movie Yesterday, which presents us with the beliefs that 1) there is beauty in the world 2) the world would be worse off if beauty did not exist, and 3) beauty is good. The Christian faith holds all these things to be true, and further grounds them in the beautiful God of the universe. God has chosen to create a world in which there is the Beatles music. God has chosen to create a beautiful world.
There is the music of the Beatles.
Therefore there must be a God.
I hope that you see this too.