SXSW has had some fantastic female-led, written, and directed films this year, Yes, God, Yes is one of them. Yes, God, Yes, written and directed by Karen Maine, follows a Catholic high schooler named Alice (Natalia Dyer) during the early 2000s. During the 2000s, the beginning of sexual discovery for many began with those little innocent AIM messages starting with A/S/L? This female coming of age story is unlike most you’ve seen. It is approached with a fresh sense of humor and allows the audience to invest in the characters and the story, as many may have experienced parts of the story themselves.
At the forefront of the film is the discovery of sexuality, and sexual arousal told from a female perspective that doesn’t seek to over-dramatize or commodify a woman’s sexuality. So often, we get films focused on females discovering their sexuality that are shown from the male perspective or are shown in a way that we’ve conditioned to be the acceptable oversexualized way. Instead, Karen Maine gives us something that is new and honest, having a lot of it coming from her personal experience.
The comedy and humor in the film are tied to the early 2000s and will resonate with a twinge of nostalgia for 30-something-year-olds who loved their Dunkaroos, AIM Chat windows, and the ever-present “A/S/L?” question. These things are so prominent in many of our pasts that we immediately associate with the character and empathize with her confusion and journey of sexual discovery. What makes the humor work even better in Yes, God, Yes, is the religious background against which it is set. As a young girl in Catholic school, Alice is faced with contradictory messages every single day coming from both her religion and her family, but also inside herself with her desires.
Natalia Dyer was the perfect choice to play Alice. She embodies the innocence and curiosity of her character with ease. Her performance is not one that is a loud and boisterous performance but is strongest because we see her grow and develop from a quiet and confused girl to finally someone with some enthusiasm and conviction in knowing that her feelings aren’t wrong or different, but something that is natural and real.
As an atheist, watching a film with such a strong religious background seemed to be already so bizarre and morally ambiguous. The blatant inconsistencies in religion are shown in the movie but don’t necessarily eradicate religion. It isn’t a Catholic church takedown, but rather the experience of a young girl who’s sexuality was oppressed and therefore caused a lot of unnecessary guilt and confusion.
Yes, God, Yes is a funny and honest coming of age film that gives a realistic look into self-discovery, sexual discovery and how a religious background can hinder that discovery with unnecessary guilt. Karen Maine has given us an authentically funny portrayal of a time that is both confusing and hilarious to look back on with fresh eyes. Yes, God, Yes is for all the 30-something-year-olds who began many of their sexual discoveries with chatrooms, AOL Messenger, and the satisfying sound of a dial-up modem.