Yes, God, Yes

Adobe Photoshop PDFSTARS3“Guys are like microwave ovens and ladies are like conventional ovens.  Guys just need a few seconds, like a microwave, to get switched on, while ladies typically need to preheat for a while.”  So says Father Murphy (Timothy Simons) as he addresses a class of high schoolers in their morality class.  I had 8 years of Catholic schooling and I can honestly say I never had any instructor, priest or layperson ever compare sexual arousal to the workings of a kitchen appliance.  As a matter of fact, my teachers rarely even addressed sexuality at all, and when they did it was from a biological context (secondary sex characteristics and stuff like that).  I get that this is a movie though.  Humor is more entertaining than reality so I’ll accept writerly dialogue that feels invented.

Alice (Natalia Dyer) is a 16-year-old Catholic from Iowa during the early 2000s.  Yes, God, Yes is a sensitive portrait about the teen who is currently experiencing a sexual awakening.  After an AOL chat turns racy, Alice grapples with the guilt by signing up for a four-day retreat.  While trying to suppress her natural burgeoning sexuality, she inadvertently becomes the victim of a scandalous rumor concerning her and fellow student Wade (Parker Wierling).  It’s completely untrue.  Although Alice’s attraction to camp counselor Chris (Wolfgang Novogratz) is indeed genuine.  The adults have no nuance or depth.  They are hypocrites all.  In particular, the Father presiding over the event hides an embarrassing secret.  The teens however are a bit more nuanced.  Some even express an earnest and uplifting devotion to God.  When fellow student Nina (Alisha Boe) testifies at the retreat, it’s a sincere moment

The “big reveal” of Karen Maine’s screenplay is that those who profess to be Christian actually succumb to temptations as well.  Surprise!  Priests and teachers and peer youth leaders are human.  No points for the stating the obvious but at least she speaks from experience.  Writer-director Karen Maine is an ex-Catholic.  As such she intends to expose what she deems as hypocrisy.  This is her gentle send-up of religion.  The satire is pretty lighthearted and reminded me of my own experiences once or twice.  There’s one scene where Father Murphy plays Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” and he instructs the kids to imagine the song is about Jesus.  That is amusing but it also rings true.  I can attest ministers have indeed quoted current songs of the day as ways to make their talks more relevant to kids.  I still recall a lector who ardently cited the lyrics of “Missionary Man” by the Eurythmics during a homily for a mass when I was in high school.

The account does present the subject honestly and amicably without being acerbic.  The overall message does not condemn religion but rather promotes individuals to respect yourself as well as others.  Who can’t get behind that?  It’s a heavy topic but the narrative ultimately feels pretty slight.  The secret weapon is actress Natalia Dyer.  Her performance is at once shy, heartfelt, and authentic.  She’s markedly different from the more confident character she portrays on TV’s Stranger Things.  Alice evokes our sympathy because of innocence.  She is sexually naive and yet she understandably has questions.  Catholic guilt is powerful.  Regardless of your upbringing, the audience can relate and appreciate her struggle to do the right thing.  Couple that with normal teen angst and you got a coming of age story that is like navigating a minefield.

07-30-20

2 Responses to “Yes, God, Yes”

  1. I kinda liked this movie. It was quirky. There were a few things that offended me, but, it’s just a movie, so I let em go. Overall, fun. 3 stars

    Like

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