Yes, God, Yes is the perfect title for a little gem of a film.
It implies both religious and sexual connotations.
And suggests a little dash of humor as well. And that pretty much sums up the movie, written and directed by Karen Maine.
The film opens with two quotes.
One is a biblical quotation about immoral behavior and eternal damnation.
The other is a dictionary definition of the slang term “salad tossing.”
What follows is equal parts of religious dogma and awakening sexuality.
Yes, God, Yes is the story of Alice, a sweet, little high school student with a hair clip, attending a mid-western Catholic high school back in 2001.
We are introduced to her in a classroom where the topic is sexuality and the day’s lesson is about the choice between abstinence and eternal damnation.
One of the students asks, “But what about sex with yourself?”
The smart-ass question sets up the following scene after Alice returns home and plops down in front of her Apple computer in her basement.
In an amusingly retro moment, in which she logs onto an AOL chatroom where she connects with a predatory young guy who quickly shares some saucy internet porn photos before requesting information about her.
She begins a nervously inept exchange, offering up bogus personal information and a shot of her high school girlfriend.
In the process, she soon finds herself becoming aroused by the encounter and taking matters into her own hands, when her mom’s sudden arrival upstairs brings it all to a crashing halt.
The scene is a little shocking.
For a moment it seems the movie is spinning into the realm of cable-TV, late night, soft core, adult entertainment.
But you realize that it’s just a frank depiction of a young woman on the verge of her sexual awakening.
The fact that she’s in a repressive world of crushingly restrictive Catholicism makes it all the more interesting, and funny.
You can squeeze a lot of humor out of sin, guilt and confession.
A running gag involves high school gossip about her and a fellow student and the aforementioned “salad tossing.”
Alice has no clue what it means.
She’s a teenager on the brink of sexual awareness and discovery that everyone can relate to. It’s a confusing, awkward place to be.
The collective connection with that chapter of your life is what makes this movie funny. If you’re a Catholic, it’s even funnier.
It’s an environment where skirt length is randomly and embarrassingly checked with yardsticks.
Abstinence posters line the halls.
It’s a world where Alice and her classmates find themselves school bussed to a four-day retreat in which soul-searching group therapy sessions promise to offer life-changing enlightenment and spiritual insight.
It’s here that the movie really kicks into gear, exposing the insincerity and hypocrisy of the ever-smiling, goody-two-shoes, holier-than-thou staff and counselors.
Through it all, Alice struggles with her temptation to be with the football star jock and fulfill her fantasies of stroking his manly, hairy arms.
And, of course, she secretly explores her new-found desires through various forms of self-stimulation and masturbation.
Remarkably, Yes, God, Yes manages to never cross the line into bad taste or crudeness.
And that’s a bit difficult to navigate considering the subject matter.
Instead, there is an overriding sense of honesty and truth.
In the end, Alice learns some life lessons, but they are not learned at the retreat.
They happen instead, when she strays off the beaten path one night, after leaving an obligatory, camp-activity, feel-good, smores-making bonfire and goes for a long walk.
What follows is the crowning sequence in the movie.
Karen Maine deserves credit for the masterful job she did writing and directing Yes, God, Yes.
It’s engaging and funny. It’s edgy and thoughtful.
Natalia Dyer nails the part of Alice.
It’s a performance with real resonance.
There’s an old adage that “acting is reacting” meaning that great actors make the most of reacting to other performer’s lines.
There is a great deal of truth to that.
Watching Dyer’s performance throughout the film, you can’t help but notice the many memorable moments in which she is just reacting to something that someone has said or done.
Often, she never utters a word. But she never runs out of material.
Yes, God, Yes is one of those low-budget, independent comedies that is really worth watching.
It’s low-key, but does its level best to put it all up there on the screen, on its own terms.
It’s bold. And it works.
There is a temptation here to say that it’s naughty, and nice. Sorry, but that sums it up!