Truth and Movies

Yes, God, Yes

Review by Keli Williams @kelionfilm

Directed by

Karen Maine

Starring

Alisha Boe Donna Lynne Champlin Natalia Dyer

Anticipation.

A personal story from a first-time female director.

Enjoyment.

A wholesome tale that shifts coming-of-age films into a much-needed light.

In Retrospect.

An original, charming and honest story on adolescence and religion.

Natalia Dyer plays a Catholic girl who experiences a profound sexual awakening in Karen Maine’s smart religious satire.

This charming debut narrative feature from writer/director Karen Maine addresses themes of religion and adolescence from a female perspective. It was inspired by Maine’s own experiences as a Catholic high schooler, and depicts its young heroine’s discovery of masturbation in a wholesome and frequently hilarious way.

Beginning with a verse from the Book of Revelation, which is duly followed by a verse about “tossing a salad”, the film’s subtle satire of sexual morality in America feels long overdue. Set in the Midwest during the early 2000s, we follow sweet 16-year-old Alice (Natalia Dyer) as she attends her devout school and seeks redemption from her guilt-ridden, profane AOL chat. Spiralling into a pit of shame when lewd, racy images enter her thoughts, Alice must soon confront a part of herself that seems to fly in the face of her and her school’s faith in ‘God’s plan.’

Enrolling in a retreat to the semi-fictionalised Kirkos organised by her school to help overcome her sinful urges of self-pleasure, Alice spends a long weekend strengthening her relationship with Jesus. But she quickly begins to doubt both herself and the pious people around her. After developing a crush on the athletic Chris (Wolfgang Novogratz) and discovering that the most enthusiastic Catholics in her group are contradicting the school’s teachings, Alice eventually comes to terms with the one change she has long neglected: the one happening within her.

Dyer gives a relatable performance in the lead role, filling the shoes of the innocent and naive Alice in a way that elevates the film above the average teen comedy. As she develops from a timid, mixed-up girl into a daring and confident woman, Yes, God, Yes subverts the “good-girl” stereotype so often seen in female-centric coming-of-age films. Crucially, Maine doesn’t shy away from showing the awkwardness and messiness of growing up, and in doing so her film becomes a humorous yet powerful statement on female body empowerment. Keeping an open mind when it comes to making mistakes should always be encouraged.

In treating masturbation as something entirely natural, Maine pushes the idea that when a person’s curiosity is suppressed they lose a sense of who they are and, in time, even their agency. This is what makes Yes, God, Yes so radical. While Alice is initially fearful that her newfound sexual freedom might send her to Hell, it is in fact her social environment that poses the greatest threat to her. Turning a very real teenage struggle into something short and sweet, this is a film that will provide instant relief for those who so desperately need it.

Published 3 Aug 2020

Tags: Karen Maine Natalia Dyer

Anticipation.

A personal story from a first-time female director.

Enjoyment.

A wholesome tale that shifts coming-of-age films into a much-needed light.

In Retrospect.

An original, charming and honest story on adolescence and religion.

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