If you are "of a generation" that grew up loving four boys from Liverpool, and haven't seen Danny Boyle's new film "Yesterday," -- trust me, you must. And that said, you might want to stop reading here. I am going to reveal two moments from the film that took me apart. In an empty theater. In rural New England.
Suffice it to say, I loved this movie. It was such a surprise for me. Not just the brilliant performances, the surprising plot, the sweet love story, and the absolutely remarkable music - but the way it affected me.
As I said, it took me apart, and put me back together. Spoiler alert: this is where, if you haven't see the film, and you don't want to know what - for me -- were the heart-shattering and hope restarting moments you should stop reading. Now.
There are two scenes. And they are related. The premise of the film is that there has been a global black-out, and during those twelve seconds, a young man is hit by a bus. When he recovers from his injuries, he seems to be the only person on earth who remembers The Beatles, or their music. He begins - reluctantly at first -- performing those songs. And he becomes an instant global phenomenon -- as everyone thinks that he is the world's greatest songwriter.
And just as he is starting to feel the depth of his ethical dilemma, he is approached by two other people who "remember." He thinks that they will expose him for the fraud that he is, but, -- and here is my first "lose it" moment -- they embrace him. They are just so very grateful that he remembers the Beatles and their songs, and that he is re-sharing those songs with the world. Since neither of them is able to sing. At one point, one of them says:
"A world without the Beatles'
is a world that is infinitely worse..."
Yup. Totally lost it.
I had been feeling this way. Just sad. Sad about a number of things that seemed to have been taken from us, or were fading from society's memory. This film reminded me that I have known a world with Beatles in it -- with happy, poignant, deeply moving songs that I have taught my children on long road trips with the "One" CD playing in an endless loop. That I have known a world in which a respected person of color could become the President of the United States. I have known a world where "Love is love is love." And I could never be made to forget.
The second paradigm shattering moment in this film (for me) is one that you - if you were a person of a certain generation - truly must see - not just read about. And if you haven't seen it, you really do want to stop reading here. Please. Do not ruin this moment for yourself.
At the height of his moral dilemma, Jack is given a slip of paper with an address on it -- by the two other people who "remember." Where he finds himself on the threshold of a small beach cottage along the English coast. He knocks on the door and when it opens, there is John. Yes, John Lennon. And this is where my heart broke wide open. Into ugly sobbing. In an empty movie theater. On a weekday afternoon.
I don't just mean a lump in my throat. Or a few tears coursing down my cheeks. No. I mean chest aching, breath-taking, gasping sobs.
It took me by surprise. Not just the moment in the film, but my response to it. The actor who portrays John is so good, and looks so much like him, that for a moment I thought it was real. That they had actually found John. It was all a ploy. A way to get John out of the public eye. A way for him to be able to have a peaceful life. No, he hadn't been murdered outside the Dakota on a cold December night over forty years ago.
And that was when I saw that I wanted it to be real. I wanted it so badly. I hadn't realized how much -- until that moment. John's passing hadn't just been the passing of a controversial rock star for me. At the time, it felt as profoundly world-altering as the assassination of John F. Kennedy or a November "morning after" - not so long ago.
John represented bold hope and fierce love for me. I think his love-rebellion was defining for a generation that had lived through the Viet Nam war, Kent State, Selma, and Watergate. His assassination shattered dreams. And not just our dreams of a future Beatles' reunion, but for a world that could "imagine all the people, living life in peace."
So, for the first time in forty years, I let myself grieve. I sat in that empty theater - while the film rushed on to its beautiful conclusion - and wept. I have spent the past week reminding myself that if it - the presence of good - has ever been, it can never be taken. John was the symbol, though not the substance, of all that he represented for me. But that hope, those dreams, a fierce love -- those are alive in me.
Today, I will go back to the theater, and watch the last thirty minutes of the film through clearer eyes. I will be grateful that I have lived in a post-Beatles world where songs like "Blackbird," and "Imagine," -- and scores of other beautiful songs -- still exist.
And I will never forget that moment in an empty theater where, for a moment, time stood still and the impossible felt so possible. As if I had woken from a dream where John had been assassinated, to a world where he is living on the coast of England in a small cottage, advising celebrities and world leaders on the importance of caring about the things that really matter -- love, family, peace, honesty, commitment, promises, hope, compassion.
You may say that I'm a dreamer -- but now, I see, that I'm not the only one. Thank you, Danny Boyle, for this brilliant film. Perhaps you have intuited what Mary Baker Eddy writes about in her tribute to the life of one of her most remarkable students, Edward Kimball -- who had passed on earlier that year:
"My beloved Edward A. Kimball, whose clear, correct teaching of Christian Science has been and is an inspiration to the whole field, is here now as veritably as when he visited me a year ago. If we would awaken to this recognition, we should see him here and realize that he never died; thus demonstrating the fundamental truth of Christian Science.
And elsewhere she further assures us in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:
"We must hold forever
the consciousness of existence."
This is not a suggestion, but a promise. The promise that all we have known and loved -- cannot be taken from us. We must hold forever the consciousness of its existence. Forever. We have the right to remember.
offered with Love,