Yes, God, Yes (2019)
Director: Karen Maine
Screenwriter: Karen Maine
Starring: Natalia Dyer, Francesca Reale, Alisha Boe, Timothy Simons, Wolfgang Novogratz, Susan Blackwell
“We’re all hiding stuff. All kinds of stuff. What if we just tried to be honest and to treat each other with respect? That’s what Jesus wanted, right? And then maybe we could stop feeling so guilty of who we are all the time because the truth is, we’re just trying to figure out our shit.”
Karen Maine’s directorial debut is a fruitful exploration of female sexuality and religion, offering a charming yet climactic look at the secrets behind God’s most devout.
What happens at church camp? Is it simply just sitting around a campfire singing Christian music, daily Bible readings and friendly activities that healthily practice the word of God? Or, is it about making s’mores that represent the seven deadly sins, discovering masturbation and being taught that, sexually, men are like microwaves and women are like ovens? Karen Maine’s Yes, God, Yes awards us a glimpse of a similar religious sanctuary, seen through the eyes of 16-year-old Alice. Naïve and virtuous Alice is a good, Catholic girl whose curiosity is shaken when an online chatroom turns spicy. Convinced she’s going to Hell for her erotic sins, she attends her school’s mysterious religious retreat in search of redemption. Alice’s imagination continues to grow, however, and she realises that her so-called devoted camp-mates aren’t so innocent after all.
Karen Maine’s witty coming-of-age comedy opens a door to the world of teenage fantasy, providing non-religious viewers a chance to understand Catholicism from a younger point of view, whilst also offering an air of nostalgia to those who have experienced it. It’s Lady Bird’s younger sister, with all the heart, soul and energy of a modern Blockbuster.
The early 2000s setting provides the feeling that the religious ideals presented were more apparent in the past, yet it is also sensitive to the strongly upheld beliefs of those who follow Christianity in the present. Yes, God, Yes’ genre provides the usual tropes of a coming-of-age film, yet its tongue-in-cheek examination of taboo subjects shroud the film in a cloth of maturity.
‘Stranger Things’ star Natalia Dyer gives a tremendously charming performance as Alice, showing a more shy, introverted side to her character than some audiences may be used to. Her portrayal of a timid, Catholic girl wonderfully emboldens the louder areas of the film such as the wildly enthusiastic, yet oh-so-cringe camp leaders and the beautiful expressions of the self. Susan Blackwell’s supporting role is a welcomed addition, providing a much-needed although fleeting revelation to our protagonist, who proceeds to gulp down a wine cooler like a cowboy’s last glass of milk in a saloon. Alice’s understanding that exploring her sexuality doesn’t mean a one-way ticket to Satan’s dungeon, enables her to take back some control of her so far Bible-led life, leading her to consider colleges further afield and to watch Titanic’s sex scene without feeling guilty.
Any improvements to Yes, God, Yes I believe would lie in its length. In a mere 78 minutes, only a snapshot of Alice’s pious life is explored, leaving elements of it to one’s imagination; much like Alice’s sexual curiosity, in fact. There is also a hint of irony in the comparison of the film’s run-time to its frequent joking that women “need to pre-heat for a while” in their oven-like state.
Although the film may benefit from a few extra scenes, Maine successfully manages to suggest that a young girl’s saintly lifestyle can be almost eradicated in a weekend. In this case, this quick flick hits its plot points on time and the narrative flows well, making this an easy, light-hearted watch.