Review: “Yes God Yes”

Year: 2019
Runtime: 78 Minutes
Writer/Director: Karen Maine
Stars: Natalia Dyer, Timothy Simons, Susan Blackwell, Alisha Boe, Wolfgang Novogratz

By Bianca Garner

“Yes, God, Yes” is Karen Maine’s semi-autobiographical debut feature film, Maine is best known for being the co-writer of “Obvious Child”. She certainly likes to tackle taboo subject matters and blend them within the comedy genre. In “Yes, God, Yes” Maine explores the story of Sixteen-year-old Alice (Natalia Dyer) who is a devout Catholic. But when an AOL chat turns racy, she discovers masturbation and becomes guilt-ridden. Seeking redemption, she attends a mysterious religious retreat to try and suppress her urges, easier said than done. Things become heated when she meets the very cute Chris (Wolfgang Novogratz) who starts flirting with her. Over the course of four days all kinds of hijacks arise, which sees Alice discovering new secrets that she must fight to keep. 

In the trailer, we are treated to many amusing little scenes and snippets of dialogue which do genuinely invoke some laugh out loud moments. However, to be completely honest, the trailer is rather misleading. The truth is, that the laughs are few and far between, with the lines of dialogue feeling very clunky indeed. Do people actually talk like this or do they only exist in the realm of movies? Each character that is introduced feels underdeveloped, a walking, talking cliche. Of course, the wholesome Father Murphy (Timothy Simons) is going to be a sexual deviant. Of course, Nina (Alisha Boe), the nice Catholic girl that Alice looks up to, is going to be just as sex crazed as Alice is. We can see all the major plot points coming a mile off and it’s a real shame, because this film had so much potential.

Timothy Simons in “Yes, God, Yes” (2019) Copyright: Vertical Entertainment

“Yes, God, Yes” is only 78 minutes long, and this is perhaps the reason why the film’s narrative feels so underdeveloped. A huge part of the plot focuses on a party that Alice attended and whilst she was there she apparently spent some personal alone time with a boy. So a rumour spreads that she ‘tossed his salad’ which is somewhat amusing because Alice is so naive that she doesn’t know what this term means. However, the main issue is why does she continue to be so naive? Was Google not a thing when this film took place? Could she have simply Asked Jeeves about ‘salad tossing’? We get that she’s naive, but she clearly knows how to use the internet, come on!

We don’t see this party scene, characters simply talk about it. Here’s where the problem lies, if we had seen the party and knew what took place, perhaps showing us that nothing did actually take place (or maybe better yet, something sexual did take place) then the film would have been stronger in terms of its story. First rule of screenwriting? Show don’t tell. Maine seems in such a rush to get us to the camp, that she barely sets anything up especially about the main character and her home life. 

Natalia Dyer in “Yes, God, Yes” (2019) Copyright: Vertical Entertainment

“Yes, God, Yes” is only 78 minutes long, and this is perhaps the reason why the film’s narrative feels so underdeveloped.”

In terms of Alice as a character, she’s not that exciting or really that interesting. Unlike the character of Christine in Greta Gerwig’s own semi-autobiographical debut film “Lady Bird”, we barely see Alice interacting with her parents, although there is one rather amusing scene where her father spills milk all over his wife only to apologise for getting her all wet. What made “Lady Bird” such a strong film was how Gerwig explored the generational differences in values between Christine and her mother. What if we had an awkward scene of Alice’s parents catching her masterbating or chatting on AOL, and they tried to tell her about the ‘birds and the bees’ or tried to get her to confess her sins. It’s frustrating because there’s so much potential with this story and the character of Alice that is left unexplored. 

She speaks about going to college but we don’t know what she’s going to study. We know little about her hobbies and interests. She just simply exists in the world of the film, an half-baked vision of a teenage girl in the early ‘00s. Her big speech at the film feels unearned and a generic. Plus, a scene with Susan Blackwell’s gay bar owner comes out of nowhere. She’s like a magical fairy Godmother to help instill confidence in Alice, all too convenient and contrived to exist in the real world. 

Timothy Simons and Natalia Dyer in “Yes, God, Yes” (2019) Copyright: Vertical Entertainment

“Yes, God, Yes” feels a little too conservative and safe in its approach to female sexuality, which is surprising considering its subject matter. The film lacks any real edginess and bite to it, and as a result it fails to make any real impact.”

The main issue is a lack of any real conflict throughout the film. Any conflict that does happen to emerge is quickly and neatly resolved, even the drama between Alice and her BFF Laura (Francesca Reale) is resolved far too quickly. In one scene they fall out, only to instantly rekindle in the next scene. It’s very hard to get invested in a film which seems to breeze through everything without allowing for any drama to ensue. 

Another point to add, is that the film relies too heavily on the nostalgia factor. As a millennial, it is amusing to see the old Nokia phones and watching Alice play snake (she ends up using the phone on its vibrate function to relieve her sexual tensions). However, the nostalgia in the film feels a little too downplayed. Where’s the bad fashion? The old pop tunes? The slang from the early ‘00s? Unlike, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” (which by the way, was a far more riskier picture in terms of sex, comedy and drama), the time setting of “Yes, God, Yes” feels more like an afterthought rather than a conscious decision.

Alisha Boe in “Yes, God, Yes” (2019) Copyright: Vertical Entertainment

Sadly, “Yes, God, Yes” feels a little too conservative and safe in its approach to female sexuality, which is surprising considering its subject matter. The film lacks any real edginess and bite to it, and as a result it fails to make any real impact. It’s an all too familiar coming-of-age drama that doesn’t exactly try to push out the boat further enough. For some reason the film has delighted other critics with the film having a 94% rating over at Rotten Tomatoes, but it failed to impress me.

Sure, the film has it’s comedic moments and a very good central performance by Dyer but it’s somewhat underwhelming. In the end, “Yes, God, Yes” is like a bad one night’s stand: fun and exciting in terms of its potential, enjoyable during the act, but upon reflection, very unsatisfactory and a little bit embarrassing.

Vertical Entertainment will premiere the film in Virtual Cinemas and select drive-ins on Friday, July 24, and the film will launch on digital and VOD platforms on Tuesday, July 28.

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