‘Yes, God, Yes’ is less than satisfying

October 30, 2020

“Yes, God, Yes” as a premise sounds interesting: a story of a young Catholic teenage girl who is only just coming to terms with her own sexual desires. Labeled as a dark comedy, the reasonable expectation would probably be jokes abound, probably something with a bit of feel-good moments. But in reality, “Yes, God, Yes,” while an intriguing film in theory, ultimately falls flat due to its lack of actual plot. 

Instead of plot, the entire film is driven by Natalia Dyer’s portrayal of Alice, the protagonist who, as a teenager, is both daunted and curious about exploring her sexuality. She accidentally finds herself engaging in cybersex in online rooms (ah, yes, the ‘90s…), masturbating in her bedroom and even another time in the kitchen of the retreat center of her Catholic school….She’s the epitome of a high school girl whose horny hormones are kicking in. Natalia Dyer portrays Alice wonderfully, with just enough of that youthful naïveté but also slight cunning that all teenagers are capable of possessing. Alice is shy, and for all her exploration into her own sexuality, she’s still just a confused kid who has no idea what she’s actually doing. 

That’s actually the overall theme of the movie: No one knows what they’re doing, and as Alice so eloquently puts it, “Everyone is just trying to figure out their own shit.” The audience that catches a glimpse of that concept, and the overall hypocrisy of everyone’s actual lives, towards the second (and better) half of the movie. From the seemingly perfect religious model Nina (Alisha Boe) giving one of the other Catholic students a blowjob, to the equally rigorously religious Father Murphy (Timothy Simons) watching porn on his computer, the film explores how everyone clearly leads their own double lives. 

While all of the above sound interesting as a concept, however, the film overall doesn’t deliver. Alice’s big realization seems to come out of left field, and it’s really just a matter of Alice being in the right place at the right time (or perhaps the wrong place at the wrong time because I doubt Alice really wanted to see Nina give a blowjob/see the school priest watching porn). So Alice, while somewhat relatable, doesn’t actually do anything in the movie. She stomps right down to a bar across the retreat center on the last night and seems to sit in her own shock and woe until the owner of the bar—a reformed Catholic—gives her a talk on how, in actuality, everyone’s trying to figure things out for themselves. No one’s perfect, especially the “holier than thou” religious types. 

While that moment is all well and good and genuinely touching, that scene only feeds a little more into the general frustration of the movie: Alice comes to that realization not on her own, but on the word of some random stranger she met at a bar, and the audience is expected to believe that counts as a satisfying enough character arc. 

As a whole, the movie seems a little confused about what actually would count as satisfying. Besides the weird, incomplete feeling of Alice’s character arc at the end of the movie, there’s also a strangely weird, incomplete feeling in Alice’s arc regarding a potentially scandalous event. Somewhere in the movie, Alice had apparently gone to a party, and she had apparently spent perhaps a second longer with a boy than she normally would, which starts up a whole slew of rumors about Alice “tossing” the said boy’s “salad.” This event is referenced by almost all the characters at one point, and while this might have just been quirky and funny the first time the event was mentioned, the plot point tires itself out quickly when the audience doesn’t actually know what happened at the party Alice had gone to. So even Alice’s own little development towards the end, when she puts her foot down on the rumors, feels anticlimactic because the audience still doesn’t feel as though they have the whole picture. The feeling can only otherwise be compared to watching a friend suddenly go off on a rant about finally fixing a problem with someone, but the only thing you can do is nod and smile, while still wondering “Okay, but what happened?” 

So that’s the ultimate question of the movie: What happened? The trailers were promising, and the cast looked promising, and the overall storyline seemed promising, but the movie itself didn’t seem to really know where it wanted to go. (Not for satisfaction, that’s for sure.) 

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