Director: Gísli Darri Halldórsson
Screenwriter: Gísli Darri Halldórsson
A short animation that captures the idiosyncrasies of ordinary people like few others, Yes-People is probably the most quirky of all the Animation Short Subjects nominated at the 2021 Oscars, and a very timely exploration of the testing nature of living with and around one another in the modern age.
There is something fundamentally Icelandic about Yes-People. Perhaps it’s the snow-covered floor outside of the film’s central apartment building or the one word acknowledgements and reactions of its characters to their every day activities? It is certainly different in its make-up from the typical North American animated film, its style one that accentuates less than glamourous features such as a bulging stomach or sunken neck as opposed to the more beautified large eyes and narrow waists of the Disney films we have all become so accustomed to.
We see an ensemble of unique characters in their everyday environments – fulfilling ordinary tasks such as going to work, waking their child, washing clothes – and each begins to feel familiar almost instantly. They’re each troubled in their own ways, whether they’re under the grip of alcohol, in a loveless marriage or dealing with noisy neighbours, but despite being almost entirely without dialogue, each of the characters feel at least a little like someone you know, and never fail to be watchable.
In Yes-People you are placed in the position of patient observer, an all-seeing appreciative eye that finds beauty in the small things that make up human life and our co-habitation of our environments. The film doesn’t have a plot in any typical fashion, it merely cycles through a day in the life of the inhabitants of the building it observes, tapping into small issues and moments of joy as they come, then moving onto the next thing as they go.
Tone is a vital component to this film, with every element gravitating around it to emphasise and elevate it. It seems that there is no space for any kind of bitter analysis of anyone’s way of life, only small tokens of appreciation for the things that bond us and are universally recognisable. Life in Yes-People is just as stressful, disappointing and troublesome as our own, but through this film we’re encouraged to see beyond that and into the idiosyncrasies of our collective and individual ways.
Yes-People isn’t the kind of film that will have you tearing up like fellow nominee If Anything Happens I Love You, but it will politely take a seat in a corner of your brain and work to lift your anxieties for 8 minutes at least.
So often the Animation Short Subject category at the Oscars is full of films worth seeking out, and Yes-People is absolutely one of them.