Yes, God, Yes stars Stranger Things favourite Natalia Dyer, who plays frustrated teen Alice. Alice lives in a small town with a very religious family. She goes to church every week, and attends an incredibly strict Catholic school that forces the students to attend confession once a week, and even teaches that sexual arousal is a sin unless it’s with your married partner. That last part might sound a bit out of nowhere, but it’s very important for this story.
Yes, God, Yes is described as a comedy-drama, and whilst I can clearly pick out the drama elements, it felt very light on the ground as far as comedy went, and I can’t recall even laughing once. It does, however, take a look at the role that religion can play in the development of a teenager, especially when it comes to things like sex and masturbation.
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The thing about this film that really got to me was how well it captured the Catholic school mindset. I spent a few years attending a Catholic primary school after my family moved house, and attended it as someone who wasn’t religious, and the way they’d treat you if you didn’t join in or follow their religious rules was horribly frustrating. As someone who has experienced only a small part of what Alice goes through in this film, I really felt for her, and it helped to draw me into her story more.
She’s a young woman struggling to understand the world she’s in, and the feelings she has, but instead of getting any real, practical advice or help she’s made to feel nothing but guilt and shame. There were times that I wanted to scream at the screen because I hated how the adults around her were telling her that she would go to hell if she touches herself. It’s masturbation Karen, not killing a baby!
Part of me wanted Alice to break away from her religion during the film, and not just because I’m the kind of person that I’m pretty sure would burst into flames if I entered a church. Alice sees first hand that the thing’s she’s being told are lies. She sees the hypocrisy herself when her chaste camp counsellors are giving out blowjobs, or her pro-abstinence priest is watching hardcore porn on his office computer. I wanted to see her call out the people around her, to flip a table or two (it is what Jesus would do after all).
Instead, director Karen Maine gives us a less black and white story. Yes, God, Yes isn’t saying religion is bad, or that you need to reject organised religion, instead it’s a story about a young woman finding her place within her faith. Alice isn’t learning to let go of her faith, but she’s learning to see things a little differently, to accept that she can still believe in and love god, but still be herself. She can have more fun, she doesn’t have to be afraid that everything she does will send her to hell, and that she’s not evil if she decides to play with herself.
The film has a very subtle message that female masturbation is normal. It’s saying that it’s fine to have physical urges, to want to feel sexual gratification, and that doing so doesn’t make you a bad person. Whilst sex itself has become less taboo over the years, female masturbation is still something that is either made to sound awful and dirty, or even outright denied. This film does the opposite, and it sends a very empowering and positive message to teenage girls, religious or not.
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I didn’t find much to laugh at in Yes, God, Yes but there’s a lot of good in this film. It angered me at times, but that just meant that it was telling its story well, with engaging characters that felt real. A little gem of a film that has some important things to say, headlined by an actress who does a superb job.
Yes, God, Yes will be available on Digital Download from 17th August.