Over the years, films about religion and sexuality have become much more prominent and less taboo. We’ve deepened the examination of sexual repression within the Catholic and Christian church, more specifically in the early 2000s and before then. Although many of the churches have adapted and continue to adapt, there’s no forgetting the repression that queer people and women went through; and many continue to experience within their own religion.
In Karen Maine’s (writer of Obvious Child) feature directorial debut Yes, God, Yes, we follow Alice; a young high school student who goes to a Christian school while also belonging to a very religious household. Throughout the film, we follow Alice as she struggles to understand her own sexuality and experience sexual urges while continuing to be told she is destined for eternal damnation if in any case, she acts on them. Not only are the teachers and students on her case after a rumour goes rampant about her “tossing a guys salad”, a term she doesn’t even understand till the end, but even her best friend has her doubts about Alice for rewinding the Titanic sex scene back twice in a row. Which of course was only because she couldn’t hear what Kate whispered to Leo beforehand; yeah, right.
Maine’s script is sharp, witty, filled with satire and although not completely original, it’s a new take on the coming of age Christian youth story. It’s short and sweet standing at only 77 minutes, but it feels slightly undercooked. All of the themes are clear but it never seems to want to dig deeper than just what it presents to us. We’re even given a cyber-sex chatroom story with Alice but at the end of the day, it just presents as one of her “sins” on top of lying, talking back to her parents and being turned on. This could have been used as a cautionary storyline about how some teens may rely or fall on these chatrooms due to a lack of awareness and education on the dangers of sexual predators. Another plot that should have been handled more deeply is the lack of sexual education for the teenagers at this school. It’s not just because they’re uncomfortable teaching it but because sex at their stage is apparently a ticket straight to hell.
The character of Alice doesn’t talk much for most of the film, but she is played with extreme care by Natalie Dyer (Stranger Things). Her performance more so comes from facial expressions and in some films, this can be cringe-worthy to watch; well not in this case. You can always understand what Alice is thinking just by a quick change in expression on Dyer’s face and it became one of the highlights of the experience for myself. Even though the role of Alice isn’t very tough or complex, Natalie Dyer carries this film from beginning to end with ease and deserves all the praise coming her way for this performance.
Although Yes God Yes talks about issues surrounding the Christian faith and the way it handles its youth, it never necessarily smears it. It’s simply a criticism of the way God has been used as a weapon to shape children into what they perceive as “pure”. The truth is everyone goes through a sexual awakening no matter how large or small it may be. Growing up and being a teenager is already such an uncomfortable time for many reasons, and there’s no real purpose for putting anymore guilt on a teenager for going through something they can’t really help or stop. Puberty’s tough, but an important message to take from this film is that your faith, whatever that may be, and sex positivity can co-exist.
All in all, this is a short and sweet film that almost any audience can enjoy. Its message is very clear and will be important to many, especially as a form of representation for young women considering women’s sexuality isn’t as common to see in film. Karen Maine and Natalie Dyer are a strong team in this one and I’d love to see them work together again. Oh, and I could definitely go without hearing “tossing salads” for the rest of my existence.