Growing up in the Midwest in the early 00s, sixteen-year-old Alice has always been a good Catholic. But when an innocent AOL chat turns racy, she discovers masturbation and is overwhelmed with guilt. Seeking redemption, she attends a mysterious religious retreat to try and suppress her urges, but it isn’t easy, especially after a cute upperclassman starts flirting with her. Alice’s sense of shame is spiraling when she uncovers a shocking truth about the retreat’s most devout.
Before seeing Yes, God, Yes, I had heard absolutely nothing about it, but I was surprised to see that it was the number one most popular movie that my friends on Letterboxd were watching. Not to mention that none of these friends gave the film a bad review either. When I found out that it stars Natalia Dyer from the hit Netflix series Stranger Things, my interest in the film grew even more, and so I finally decided to check it out today and was pleasantly surprised in many ways.
This is the feature debut for writer/director Karen Maine, whose screenplay is equal parts interesting and down-to-earth. Absolutely nothing about this sex-driven story is watered-down or made unbelievable. It may be an extremely short movie with a running time of only seventy-eight minutes, but Maine ensures that every single second of screentime is put to good use.
Almost every minute we spend watching Yes, God, Yes, we follow the inner struggles of our protagonist Alice. Growing up as a Catholic, she definitely feels as though she must abide by the rules of her school and the retreat that she ends up attending. But when she discovers the various different sexual acts that people perform, she simply cannot resist her temptations. She always gives in to these urges but feels guilty in doing so.
But what is so inspiring and touching about the movie as a whole is the way it tells this story of learning to accept one’s self and not being afraid to own up to the things you feel guilty for doing. It’s a coming-of-age tale that I can truthfully say we have never really seen before. Maine’s film feels wholly original and unique in virtually every regard.
One of the biggest strengths on display here as well is the nuanced and raw performance from Natalia Dyer. Here, she feels extremely relatable and grounded in the role of Alice. She feels like an actual person. A person that makes mistakes just like we do, and a person that has to overcome challenges. Nothing about her character felt sugarcoated or unnatural. This is Dyer at her most personal and exposed.
When it comes to issues with the film, there are some instances in which the film feels as though it doesn’t have enough meat on its bones. At the end of the day, the movie’s story is so simplistic to the point in which you can’t help but feel that the story could be told in a few minutes rather than stretch it out to feature-length. Gratefully, to make up for the thin story, Maine ensures that every line of dialogue is put to good use and uses a lot of the running time to fleshing out our main character Alice, so it’s hard to complain about that. There are some little nitpicks here and there, but Yes, God, Yes is nevertheless a grounded and heavily unique coming-of-age story that we need more of in the industry.
Yes, God, Yes is a wholly unique and intimate coming-of-age story with well-developed characters and a nuanced performance from Natalia Dyer.
Overall Grade: B+
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content and some nudity
Directed by: Karen Maine
Distributed by: Vertical Entertainment
Release Date: July 24, 2020
Running Time: 78 minutes