Yes, God, Yes opens with a snappy quote from one of the Bible’s more zealous sections: “As for the faithless and the sexually immoral – their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8), before going on to explain the difference between tossed salad (the food) and salad tossing (the sex act). The following 80 minutes are a turbulent discussion of religion, sex and shame as Catholic schoolgirl Alice (Natalia Dyer) experiences teenage urges, is unsure what to do with them, and is made to feel like they’re the worst thing imaginable by friends, family and the far too familiar Father Murphy (Timothy Simons). “I thought I was going to go to hell for rewinding Titanic back to the sex scene three times,” she admits at one point.
Set in 2001, Yes, God, Yes is a slow-burning coming of age story that blends the no-nonsense attitude of Easy A with the small town Americana of Dumpling. It perfectly captures the Internet-inspired sexual awakening anyone born this side of the ’90s has experienced (thanks AOL Instant Messenger). Set alongside the resulting confusion that comes from your mates being just as lost, the film is a snapshot of being young and a bit messed up.
Add in the pressure of a strict ‘no sex before marriage’ upbringing (yes, that includes sex with yourself), a bible retreat with plenty of Catholic guilt, plus a side-helping of misogyny and Yes, God, Yes provides the perfect setting for youthful rebellion. Sadly, the closest Alice gets to sticking it to the man is hiding her phone and making use of the old school Nokia’s generous vibration setting.
Similarly to her turn as Stranger Things’ Nancy Wheeler, Dyer captures Alice’s uncertainty perfectly. Finding a balance between free-spirited resistance and the fear of Jesus always watching, she carries the gradually unfurling drama. Unfortunately, the supporting cast aren’t given a chance to shine and the short 80-minute runtime means we get a collection of well-worn stereotypes. There’s the best friend who just that isn’t into you; the handsome star of the football team with a heart of gold; and the authority figure with double standards. Despite the unique setting, you feel that we’ve been here before.
For the most part, though, director Karen Maine’s warm-hearted comedy drama does its job sufficiently. Taking familiar teenage tropes and viewing them through a new lens, this is an intimate reworking of shag-happy blockbusters like American Pie and Superbad. Though it refuses to wrap things up neatly or offer explicit answers, Yes, God, Yes is a gentle, comforting addition to the coming-of-age genre that gives agency back to those who usually struggle without it.
- Director: Karen Maine
- Starring: Natalia Dyer, Francesca Reale, Alisha Boe
- Release date: August 17 (Digital)