Natalia Dyer exchanges 80’s spandex for an early 2000’s Catholic school uniform in Karen Maine’s Yes, God, Yes. Maine previously co-wrote Obvious Child, a comedic character study about a childish adult finally having to grow up. While not necessarily as dramatic, Maine approaches Yes, God, Yes in a similar manner.
Dyer plays Alice, a meek Catholic schoolgirl who is not as pious as her classmates. She has committed the ultimate sin of going through teenage puberty. When a rumor is spread that she “tossed a classmate’s salad,” she has no idea what people are talking about. In fact, Alice doesn’t know anything about sexuality except the sex scene in Titanic (and we know how steamy that was). After engaging in a sexual conversation via an AOL chatroom, Alice starts to realize there’s more to life than doing Hail Marys.
As someone who wasn’t religious but raised in a religious town, Yes, God, Yes, hit very close to home. The exaggerated politeness; the oppressive adults who seek only to shame their students instead of encouraging them; and the repressed sexual urges of teenagers who are taught that discovering their bodies is a sin. However, Maine doesn’t only showcase the bad; she also shows a warm, nurturing side for the kids who genuinely feel like their life has changed for the better since finding Jesus.
Maine perfectly balances comedy with quiet moments. There are a few scenes that will genuinely make you laugh out loud, followed by tender and eye-opening exchanges. One particularly touching scene is when Alice has a conversation with an ex-Catholic lesbian about faith and how she could live her best life when she let it all go.
Yes, God, Yes, succeeds as a character study, but plot-wise, it feels a tad hollow. It’s glaringly obvious that the film derived from a short because the feature feels like it’s trying to shove in a story to fill up 89 minutes. The dynamic between Alice and her best friend feels unnatural, and the actual plotline about the rumor is never fully developed.
When the film focuses on Alice and her emotional turmoil, it’s sweet, non-judgemental, and even a little inspiring. Women have been conditioned to treat sex as only a baby-making practice and to not even think of their bodies as their own. But Maine knows what girls are thinking about at that age and tells the audience that it’s okay.
It’s utterly ridiculous that this film has an R-rating. There’s no graphic sex scenes, bad language, or anything else that could be defined as extreme. We see male masturbation in PG-13 movies all the time, and no one bats an eye. But once a girl starts to have those thoughts, the MPAA has to hide it behind an R-rating that makes it even harder for teenage girls to see. We all know how the MPAA views sexual women and LGBTQ relationships, but that’s a story for a different time.