Video: Yes, God, Yes (2019)

Yes, God, Yes will hold your intrigue with a captivating performance by Natalia Dyer (who plays Nancy in Stranger Things), as well as a beautiful raw direction by Karen Maine (who also penned the engaging screenplay) in her impressive directorial debut. 

Set in the early 2000's, Alice (Dyer) is a 16 year old good Catholic girl who stumbles upon racy nude photos in an AOL chatroom and proceeds to masturbate to them. Feeling conflicted after learning that "having sex with yourself" is considered a sin by her strict Catholic school, she decides to attend a religious retreat called Kirkos in order to find redemption between her and God / Jesus. As unexpected drama unfolds, Alice will have to decide how to live her life after her retreat is over and she returns home.

Maine tackles her first feature film, which clocks in at 78 minutes by extending her 2017 11 minute short film of the same name which also stars Dyer. It is my belief some some shots were re-used for the film but if they were not re-used then they were shot so strikingly similar! The short film covers the same premise but clearly has less details that fleshed Alice's character out in the film and also does not have some key supporting characters. However, if you're wondering if you should watch the film the short will give you a good sense of what to expect in the feature film in terms of content and tone. To see this short, you may do so here:

The environment captured in Yes, God, Yes is incredibly nostalgic of early 00's, which I could not help but smile from pondering my teenage years. From ginormous screen desktop monitors, the dial-up sound connecting to the internet, AOL, a Walkman player, a reference to Blink-182's Enema of the State, Christina Aguilera's Genie in a Bottle, Nokia cell phones, and the mobile game Snake I certainly felt transported back to this period of time. 

Supporting characters include Father Murphy portrayed Timothy Simons, the school teacher Mrs. Verda plays by Donna Lynne Champlin, and classmates Chris, Laura, Wade, and Nina played by Wolfgang Novogratz, Francesca Reale, Parker Wierling, and Alisha Boe respectfully. These characters all contribute to Alice's unsettling camp experience in a very interesting and unique manner that I will not spoil. They are all effectively unlikable and felt incredibly fake in their interactions with Alice, particularly classmate Nina (who in one scene is scolding Alice for breaking a camp rule and in the next scene is smilingly cheerfully with her).

The church camp retreat is not similar to the more accepting / love-focused church retreats I have attended but it still felt like it was in the realm of possibilities for a church retreat of this nature to exist. The camp retreat is interesting and at the same time barbaric, as it bothered me that there's some people who may actually go through such an unpleasant experience. As someone who did not grow up in a Catholic school or church but, instead, did grow up in a non-denominational Christian Church, I did feel like the presentation of some of the teachings were over-the-top brimstone-and-fire intimidating. For those who may be bothered by seeing believers act stern, cold, and fake this film may get incredibly under your skin. "This is not how real believers behave." some may explain! Because I was intrigued by how Alice would respond to this camp that did in fact feel real that aspect did not bother me as much as I think it might bother some audiences.

Natalia Dyer portrays Alice phenomenally well and she is the one character you will root for, want to see find peace, and get justice for the unfair way she is mistreated and suppressed throughout the movie. The subtle nonverbal experessions communicate an immense amount of the emotion she is feeling in any given scene and it is fun to anticipate how she will respond to each different character.

While my imagination can guess what happens to these interesting characters when the credits roll I would’ve loved a more definitive conclusion to the supporting characters. I’m the critic that has the frequent complaint that a film is too slow and that it could’ve been shortened; this movie is the rare exception where I would’ve loved to see more because I loved the 1 hour and 18 minutes that it lasted. Nonetheless, the viewing experience is engaging, comical, and insightful to the feelings a teenager may feel when trying to discover how to be at peace with God and her behaviors that are labeled sin.

Final Verdict:Yes, God, Yes will hold your intrigue with a captivating performance by Natalia Dyer and a beautiful raw direction by Karen Maine!