With what little time she has (73 minutes before credits), writer/director Karen Maine accomplishes a lot with her memorable filmmaking debut Yes, God, Yes, a semi-edgy dramedy set in the early 00s about a young Catholic student who has a sexual awakening before embarking on a weekend school retreat.
Provocative thoughts aren’t unordinary for Alice (Natalia Dyer of Netflix’s Stranger Things), but she’s never acted on these new urges; mostly because she doesn’t know how to comprehend these feelings. She gets submerged in them, unexpectedly, when an AOL chatroom user initiates cyber sex with some amateur porn and suggestive language. Alice is stunned, but intrigued; even moreso when a kinky schoolyard rumour is started about her and masturbation is coincidentally a topic of discussion in Alice’s sex education class. As her curiosity seeps through her maturing perspective, Alice is pressured to suppress her thoughts as she endures contemplative sessions about the role of God with classmates and school administrator Father Murphy (VEEP’s Timothy Simons).
Karen Maine’s terrific movie is a quaint albeit explicit coming-of-age tale. Just as Saved! And The Miseducation of Cameron Post did, Yes, God, Yes allows characters to have their beliefs to flesh out these specific definitions of faith or skepticism. But in the case of Maine’s sardonically funny yet lighthearted film, the religious roots are often referenced to highlight the contradictions behind wholesome values. Over the course of the weekend, Alice is shamed for the rumour or for other misunderstandings, but then she’s exposed to the hypocrisies carried by those who hold her in contempt. As Alice, Natalia Dyer has a great knack for expressing shock from dishonest and biased behaviour, and she portrays the character’s curiosity well with the help of Maine’s realized understanding of teenage confusion and naïveté.
Karen Maine’s reassuring filmmaking also channels these conflicting emotions during considerate scenes involving group work at the retreat. The film is occasionally a little too static because of how low-key these scenes are, but they play an important role in the long run of Alice’s personal growth.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie