Review: Yes, God, Yes

This was originally published on August 3rd, 2020.

Most teenage sexual awakenings explored in cinema are told through the male lens, but Yes, God, Yes not only explores this through the female lens, but through a religious one as well. Loosely based on writer-director Karen Maine’s experience growing up Catholic in the Midwest, the film follows 16-year-old Alice (Natalie Dyer) as she begins to explore her sexuality, which was initially piqued by the steamy sex scenes that she rewinds to on her VHS tape of Titanic. To make things worse, young and hip Father Murphy’s (Timothy Simons) class on Catholic morality, which covers everything from sex to abstinence, teaches Alice that masturbation is a sin that can result in damnation for all eternity. So, yes, Alice is understandably conflicted.

It doesn’t take long before a dirty rumor about Alice tossing someone’s salad spreads around school like wildfire. But Alice is so naive that she doesn’t even know what it means and butchers the term with humorous delight to viewers. With everyone around her believing the rumor, it results in loss of privileges at school. Alice agrees to go on a school-sponsored retreat with her best friend Laura (Francesca Reale) so it can bring her closer to Jesus, though Laura wants to be closer to the popular Nina (Alisha Boe). Alice soon realizes that those around her, students and teachers alike, aren’t all practicing what they preach. The hypocrisy and absurdity of religion is portrayed so accurately that it borders on satire, though it isn’t as extreme as 2004’s Saved!

Set in the early 2000s, Yes, God, Yes leans into nostalgia and technology to tell its story. Alice first begins to explore the realm of self pleasure by using her bulky PC to enter AOL chat rooms, where a couple share an explicit photo with her. This scene is neither graphic nor objectifying, though, and is instead played for laughs as it shows the awkwardness of teenage sexual awakening. Dyer’s facial expressions take us through her character’s mixed feelings: excitement of discovery and fear of damnation. Nokia phones and broomsticks are also used to portray innocent sexual exploration, and all of these things are realistic depictions of female sexuality that are rarely talked about, let alone represented on-screen.

The film frequently zeroes in on Alice’s timid horniness. One of the best scenes is when Alice casts a lustful gaze on the seductively hairy arms of retreat leader Chris (Wolfgang Novogratz), as a slowed down version of Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle” plays in the background. While we’ve started seeing more coming-of-age films, such as Lady Bird and The To Do List, through the female gaze, it’s still a refreshing delight to see where the lustful gaze of a teenage girl lands. The scene perfectly captures the nostalgia of the early 2000s and the innocence of Alice’s desire.

Although Alice wrestles with guilt and shame, Yes, God, Yes remains a lighthearted, fun, and sex-positive journey. Dyer delivers a nuanced performance made all the more noticeable by her character having minimal spoken dialogue, but a lot going on internally. Yes, God, Yes allows us to feel empathy for Alice, despite everyone around her telling her what she has done, hasn’t done, and what it all means. It also creates many laughs to be enjoyed out loud.

Those who grew up in a religious community will be able to relate to Maine’s experience the most, but struggling with blossoming sexuality and a desire to satiate our sexual appetite is something most of us can probably relate to. Speaking to EW!, Maine said: “I wouldn’t say [Alice] is me. I’d say she’s going through what I also went through as a teenager, and is a compilation of many different people’s experiences, not just my own.” One of those people happens to be Dyer herself, whose quiet and subtle performance is a perfect fit for a character questioning the strict religious rules she and her peers supposedly live under.

Yes, God, Yes is a celebration of female sexuality set against an unlikely backdrop. It lets the audience know that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with being turned on and indulging in those pleasures. As Alice’s pep talk with an ex-Catholic lesbian bar owner (the wonderful Susan Blackwell) suggests, she’s got a tough road ahead, but she’s gonna be just fine.

Yes, God, Yes is out on VOD and virtual cinemas now.



Freelancer writer on mainly film and television, but sometimes dabbles in celeb culture. Covers mostly horror and female-led media for Screen Queens.

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Toni Stanger

Freelancer writer on mainly film and television, but sometimes dabbles in celeb culture. Covers mostly horror and female-led media for Screen Queens.