Rachel Maine’s angst comedy Yes, God, Yes will resonate strongly with anyone who grew up during a certain time period. Locating itself in the early 2000s, the film features several blast-from-the-past sequences of the internet (and specifically AOL) as a devout Catholic teenager discovers (*gasp*) cyber sex.
Yes, not only were the early incarnations of the internet an exhilarating window into the minds and voices of people from around the world with differing viewpoints, but it streamlined anonymous conversations, provocations and teasing straight into the closeted confines of anyone just looking for a connection. Whether those connections were real or not (or actually the person they were said to be) is another thing altogether, making this mesh of computer-generated communities even more confusing.
The confused teenager in question here is Alice, portrayed by the wonderful Natalia Dyer from Stranger Things. Trying to do all the right things as she goes about her daily life in a Catholic school, things get complicated when a nasty rumor begins to spread about her and another student.
We know young Alice is guilt-free of the charges, but her alienation drives her to seek explanations outside her sphere of friends, including Laura (Francesca Reale), on the internet. A simple question asked in a chat room opens up Alice’s cloistered worldview, causing her to explore her own feelings of sexuality.
Yes, God, Yes then goes a step further and places Alice and Laura away from home in a four-day social retreat sponsored by the school’s Father Murphy (Timothy Simmons) in the hopes of bringing his flock closer to their Catholic acceptance. What’s better for sexually confused and continually horny young teens than a Meatballs-like summer camp excursion? Not to mention the retreat also holds the fellow student (Parker Wierling) Alice was rumored with, as well as the hunky school quarterback (Wolfgang Novoritz) who all the girls fake accidents with, so they can stare into his dreamy eyes. God may be close, but teenage hormones are even closer.
All the push and pull between normal adolescence and a more godly nature creates a recipe for disaster, but writer-director Maine maneuvers through her script with deft characterizations and smart laughs. There are other students at the retreat going through some of the same issues as Alice. She just happens to be the one in the right place at the right time to witness their fall from grace. If there’s one thing Yes, God, Yes makes abundantly clear, it’s that no one should cast the first stone.
As Alice, Dyer is terrific, exuding the perfect amount of wide-eyed innocence that blossoms into world-weary knowledge by film’s end. Not only does she get to represent someone truly changed by her time on screen (thanks to a poignantly written scene with a wise woman she meets along the way) but she’s someone we genuinely root for to break free from the constraints of her tight-laced upbringing.
While Yes, God, Yes has several targets in mind, the film saves most of its pointed attacks for Christian purity and the severity of Catholicism and its tenets. Fortunately, the film hits most of those targets with depth and sensitivity, proving that during the most confusing times of our lives as budding young adults, the only thing more confusing is being told how to live and then spending the rest of that time in the shadows living how we actually feel. It’s also a comedic endeavor that proves even an insignificant act like that of masturbation can become a sea-changing event if we allow it.
Yes, God, Yes, opens in select drive-ins and movie theaters beginning Friday, July 24, and streaming platforms on Friday, July 31. Visit the official site for more information.