Monday, March 11, 2019

SXSW with Abe: Yes, God, Yes

I’m excited to be attending the film festival at South by Southwest for the second time, and I’ll be posting reviews throughout the week as I see as many movies as possible!

Yes, God, Yes
Directed by Karen Maine
Narrative Feature Competition

The intersection of teenage years and heavy religious influence can have disastrous effects. Films such as “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” and “Boy Erased” bring to light the harmful consequences of trying to stifle the expression of sexual identity and “correct” what is perceived as a problem. Attempts to suppress any sort of sexual exploration rarely leads to the life of abstinence before marriage that those who preach it always hope it does, making the idea of experimenting all the more appealing since any indulgence is inherently forbidden.

In the very cleverly-titled “Yes, God, Yes,” Alice (Natalia Dyer) grows up in the Midwest in the early 2000s, faithfully attending a Catholic school. When a rumor about her and a boy starts spreading around the school, affecting her reputation with both students and the formerly admiring staff, Alice is drawn into an AOL chat that quickly turns explicit, and her feelings stand in contrast with the teachings of the priest (Timothy Simons) that while boys are like microwaves, girls take considerably more time to heat up. A weekend retreat for the especially devout proves a perfect opportunity for exploration, leading to both unfortunate situations and extremely eye-opening ones.

Writer-director Karen Maine, who makes her debut behind the camera after serving as a co-writer for “Obvious Child,” claims that she actually went through eighty percent of what happens in the film, taking certain understandable creative liberties for the sake of cinema. Recalling many moments from her own life and the filming process, Maine and her cast cracked up during a Q and A following the film, and the hilarity they remember translates incredibly to the finished product. It runs just seventy-seven minutes (and likely could have been longer), and not a moment is wasted on something not entirely worthwhile and funny.

Casting is key to this film’s overall success, and all choices prove tremendously successful. Dyer, best known for a far tamer role on “Stranger Things,” emotes incredibly with her face, enhancing most of the film’s funniest scenes. Simons would hardly be the obvious choice to play a religious leadership figure, and he knocks it out of the park. Support from young actors and actresses like Francesca Reale, Alisha Boe, Wolfgang Novogratz, and Parker Wierling as classmates of Alice’s going through their own religious journeys is solid, and Susan Blackwell proves memorable in a small but crucial part. The only disappointment in this film, which was released as a short that was made after the feature had already been conceived, is that there isn’t more of it, since seventy-seven minutes feels all too brief for a winning, truly funny comedy like this.


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