Written by: Hannah Tran | July 23rd, 2020
Yes, God, Yes (Karen Maine, 2019) 3 out of 4 stars.
To dive into the world of Karen Maine’s directorial debut, Yes, God, Yes, is to dive directly into the world of many of our own pasts. Whether that be the world of the early 2000s, with its online chat rooms, bulky cell phones, and Titanic craze, or whether it be the world of a religious upbringing riddled with gratuitous fears of damnation, Yes, God, Yes is a sweet and simple examination of that deeply personal but likely recognizable past.
Centering on Catholic school girl Alice, portrayed by Stranger Things star Natalia Dyer, Yes, God, Yes, follows the aftermath of a racy AOL chat that propels Alice’s burgeoning sexual desires. Feeling guilt and a staunch desire to rid herself of these urges, Alice attends a religious youth retreat where she begins to learn that those desires are not as abnormal as she once thought. Even from this simple plotline, it is almost clear that Yes, God, Yes is based on Maine’s 2017 short of the same title, the feature film often seeming somewhat insubstantial and the retreat narrative at first feeling like a clunky addition to increase runtime. Nevertheless, it nicely finds its own laidback rhythm, and carries over many of the more energetic and hilarious moments of the short that make for some of the most memorable points of this film.
Moments like that are only one part of what makes up this film’s expertly handled tone, the combination of restrained performances and dynamic writing perfectly capturing a lighthearted, amusing, and painfully real take on its world. Natalia Dyer gives a standout performance filled with nuance, versatility, and charm. Her likeable and pitiable portrayal of Alice shows immense growth and proves Dyer is more than capable of leading a feature.
Furthermore, Maine takes full advantage of the longer runtime to inject her feature with deeper explorations of her characters and more complex and emotionally-charged situations that enlighten us in regard to their inner struggles. In particular, a certain unexpected scene that Dyer shares with actress Susan Blackwell turns into a highlight that perfectly captures Maine’s central thesis and her adept ability to find both the zany moments and the unexpected kindness that exists in our imperfect human reality. And it is through this imperfection that the movie finds its purpose. With its timeless message about the flawed ideas of perfection and what exactly it means to be good, Yes, God, Yes serves as a source of comfort not only for those in Alice’s situation but also for those who once were. It may not completely tear down all those walls of guilt, but its sweet and simple approach makes for one of the best starts I have yet to see.