#REVIEW: “YES, GOD, YES”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Alice (Natalia Dyer from Stranger Things) is confused and feeling uneasy about herself. After an AOL Chat turns sexual, she discovers masturbation. On one hand, she enjoys it. On the other, she dislikes it because the teachers at her Catholic high school have been telling her and her classmates that it is a sin. She is not sure what to believe, and as she tries to suppress her new urges and budding sexuality, she learns that there is a whole lot of hypocrisy going on within the groups of people around her.
I went to Catholic high school and have many unresolved feelings about the experience. So watching Yes, God, Yes, a film that takes place in and around that time (am I really that old?!), simultaneously brought me great joy and a whole lot of nervous laughter. Writer/Director Karen Maine taps into a very lived-in anxiety, playing into that uneasiness of growing up Catholic and questioning the world around you. The fears around eternal damnation are very real here, as are the uneasiness around hormones and sexual desire. Many of these awkward moments are played for laughs, but others are heightened and terrifying. Maine expertly weaves right down the middle for the most part, both playing into and completely subvert more than a few of the expectations you might have. And with Yes, God, Yes clocking-in at just under 80 minutes, she could teach a thing or two to many longwinded Filmmakers.
The entire Cast is solid and sufficiently awkward enough to maintain the level of anxiety that courses through the Film’s veins. 13 Reasons Why’s Alisha Boe and Veep’s Timothy Simons both get stellar stand-out moments, as does Susan Blackwell in a minor two-scene role playing that adult every Catholic high schooler wishes they had the opportunity to speak to about their feelings.
But Dyer is the main attraction here, doing an incredible job of making you feel every single one of her new feelings. She looks every bit the part of a fragile teen girl (despite being well into her twenties), and she has just the right amount of naïve innocence that allows her performance to feel just as authentic as the Film itself. The way her eyes move when she is curious is a sight to see, as is her pitch perfect comedic timing. Dyer stole her share of scenes in the three seasons of Stranger Things, but she never really proved her mettle as a lead. With Yes, God, Yes, she more than holds her own against the rest of the Cast and then some. Dyer is a huge star in the making – it is just a matter of time before everyone else catches on.
Yes, God, Yes is the kind of movie that might trigger former Catholic high schoolers in the best and worst ways possible. As Writer and Director, Maine taps into something truly raw and remarkable here, and her vision is made stronger by Dyer’s committed and genuinely hilarious lead performance. It is a whole lot of fun and I can only hope it will kick off a new wave of great films normalizing runtimes that are under 80 minutes.
VVS Films release YES, GOD, YES on Digital, On-Demand and DVD on Tuesday, December 8, 2020.