Review: Unholy teenage sex comedy 'Yes, God, Yes' pokes fun at Catholicism
Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment
In the coming-of-age-drama/comedy “Yes, God, Yes,” Natalie Dyer (“Stranger Things”) plays a Catholic school girl circa 2001 struggling to make sense of her sexuality. Importantly, it’s a film about the discovery of masturbation, a subject that debut filmmaker Karen Maine handles with sincerity. “American Pie” it is not, “Yes, God, Yes,” doesn’t go the raunchy route, you’re not going to see gross bodily fluids on screen, instead the film offers a fresh perspective on how a girl in the midwest whose urges - in the eyes of her school - are viewed as sins.
Discovering her lustful desires over an AOL chatroom, Alice (Dyer), finally understands what it feels like to be turned-on. But unlike other teen comedies, Alice’s pleasures don’t come from sleeping with someone, they come from her. The stakes only rise from there as a rumor begins going around school that she “tossed the salad” with a harmless crush who has a girlfriend. Immediately, Alice gets labeled a slut and even her teachers stop asking her to participate in school prayer assemblies because “she needs to appreciate her body.” If there’s anything to be taken away from “Yes, God, Yes”, other than sex education is extremely important, is that we still have work to do when it comes to believing women. Because no matter how often Alice tells her friends the rumor is a lie, everyone claims she just wants attention.
Most of “Yes, God, Yes” unfolds over the course of a school retreat where Alice and her peers try to deepen their relationship with God and open up in a group setting. An upbeat, generally enthusiastic, priest named Father Murphy (Timothy Simons) along with a group of students and faculty members lead the retreat, and it’s here where the film begins to unravel the desires that reside in all of us. Ironically, this is also where Alice begins to discover more sexual meaning and widens her viewpoint beyond the slim knowledge affronted by her teachers who only teach abstinence, abstinence, and abstinence.
Maine is wise to inject a wide array of classic pop singles (and culture) of the 2000s to help boost the nostalgia factor - (does anyone remember those bulky yellow Nextel cell phones?) - everything from “Genie In A Bottle” to “TLC” makes the cut, and it signifies how Maine’s voice - as a filmmaker - knows how to incorporate these songs as a metaphor for Alice’s internal struggles.
Those brought up under Catholic teachings will either be overtly offended by the subject matter, or laugh it off as a satire, which, at times, it certainly strives to be. Then again, it might be triggering because, upon chatting with a friend who went to a Catholic high school, it's accurate. The religion isn’t done any favors throughout “Yes, God, Yes” as Catholics are the butt of nearly every joke, but Maine seems to stop short of truly pushing the boundaries (Catholicism, like many denominations, will always be easy targets for comics). So you have to ask yourself which side of the pendulum you take your scathing dose of religious satire.
Chances are, you’ll know where you fall on this spectrum and that will ultimately determine how the film works for you. As for me, “Yes, God, Yes” was a memorable experience, made all the more enjoyable by Dyer’s engaging performance and Maine’s slick direction. Subtle nods and references to sex throughout the picture (the pregnant, angry, teacher that trolls in the background) are icing on the cake and the laughs come routinely.
Though you might wanna say ten Hail Mary’s before seeing this one just as a precaution.
YES, GOD, YES will be released in virtual cinemas and Drive-Ins starting July 24th before heading to VOD July 28th. Check your preferred platforms for availability.