Saturday 22 October 2022

Movie Review: Yes, God, Yes (2019)

A coming-of-age comedy about awakening sexuality, Yes, God, Yes seeks humour at the intersection of religion and adolescence.

In the year 2000, sexually inexperienced Alice (Natalia Dyer) is a junior at a Catholic high school in the midwest. Father Murphy (Timothy Simons) teaches morality, insisting that sex should only occur between a husband and wife, and masturbation is a sin. Alice secretly engages in on-line sex chats and is intrigued by the idea of pleasuring herself. At school the students are gossiping that she engaged in a sexual act with a classmate.

Alice attends a four-day school camp retreat, where Father Murphy and senior students further stress lessons in morality. But Alice finds herself attracted to one of the camp leaders, a hunky football player. She starts to lie about her true feelings before uncovering hypocrisy all around her. 

Written and directed by Karen Maine based on her own short film (and inspired by her school experiences), Yes, God, Yes is a low-budget romp through the triggering complexities of dogma and sex. Alice's brain is flooding with hormones threatening to breach the dam of a Catholic upbringing, and her startled search for a workable definition of moral behaviour is rich with comic possibilities.

Despite a bright Natalia Dyer performance, the film leaves the vague impression it could and should have been funnier. Maine may have benefited from a co-writer, as some of the plotting is loose (for example a computer is used to view pornography within easy eyeshot of others), too much time is invested in a single salad-related joke, the secondary characters barely register, and Alice's searching exploration starts to resemble a circular journey despite the short 78 minutes of running time.

The better moments carry scathing condemnations of middle America and religious duplicity. Alice is exposed to jolts of do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do from the arbitrators of sin, and has a pivotal encounter with a grizzled woman who encourages her to aim for the coasts in pursuit of a college education. But then her in-front-of-the-room final speech lands with a dull thud.

Yes, God, Yes never quite finds the perfect rhythm, but has some fun searching.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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