YES, GOD, YES (2020) ⭐️⭐️⭐️
YES, GOD, YES is an original and charming coming-of-age film that follows a Catholic teenage girl, called Alice (played by Stranger Things’ Natalia Dyer) in the Midwest in the early 00s.
When an AOL chat turns racy, she discovers masturbation and becomes guilt-ridden. Seeking redemption, she attends a religious retreat to try and suppress her urges. However, after meeting a cute boy, being caught in the middle of a rumour and discovering the truth about the retreat’s most devout, she is left desperate and confused and finds an alternative view of what it means to be “good”. For the first time, Alice realizes she can decide for herself what to believe and finally gets the release she needs.
I’m a huge indie fan and loved the trailer off the bat. Watching the film, was like an instant hit of nostalgia [as a teenager in the 90s/00s] the Christina Aguilera Genie In A Bottle rendition, the Nokia phone and snake game. All of it.
It’s a well-shot, humorous dark comedy, that was incredibly relatable. Where else have you seen a teenage girl awkwardly avoiding boys, playground gossip, fawning over boys and "Catholic Guilt". Ok, the last one is a little more personal, but Karen perfectly highlights how difficult it is being a teenage girl in the world. At times I found myself internally raged at how easily young/adolescent girls are branded, tainted and shamed for something they don’t even understand, all whilst trying to figure out life and themselves.
Alice gets her own back at the boys who started the rumour, which I loved and appreciated, as many girls don’t often get an opportunity to do so. We also see Alice’s development as we discover some key members of the clergy taking part in sinful acts of their own, forcing her to re-evaluate everything she’s been taught and knows about religion.. and ultimately find herself.
My one grate is the very strategically placed older, wiser and former-religious kind stranger in a dimly-lit bar, at night – yes, works for the story, but a little too convenient for me. Would the story have benefited from a scene set a few years on, a la Ladybird when Alice is older and wiser and confident about her decisions in life? Maybe not, but it may have felt a little more authentic.
If anything the film serves as a reminder that we’re all just people, and self-acceptance is the most important thing.
We had a fantastic conversation with writer/director Karen Maine ahead of the UK release of Yes, God, Yes! a semi-autobiographical story about religion and discovering sexuality during adolescence.
**Sadly, due to some technical difficulties during our conversation we have no recording our interview with writer/director Karen Maine. However, we have pulled together snippets from our chat below**
TCR: Can you tell us about the film?
KM: I wanted to show aspects of Catholicism, and thought, self-pleasure and masturbation set up a good conflict for the film - I wanted to make something that focused on female sexuality and self-pleasure, as opposed to just about a girl losing her virginity or as a sex partner. Oftentimes, women experience this first, in terms of discovering sex, but this is not really shown. It’s been so taboo for so long.
TCR: How did you come about the idea to write Yes God Yes? How much of your own personal real-life experiences were featured in the film? Was it autobiographical?
KM: A lot of the film was accurate, yes. I was born and raised Catholic and went to a Catholic school much like the one in the film. The microwave oven and conventional oven lesson were literally said to us. It’s all pretty much autobiographical.
TCR: Even the scene with the priest at his computer?
KM: Haha. No! I’ve never taken part in voyeurism. But there was Titanic on VHS that I watched over and over again alone. I really liked the car scene specifically. When you’re that age you’re intrigued. There was a real religious retreat I went on and AOL chat rooms. The experiences that Alice goes through in the film are almost all things I experienced. But I would say, though, that the character of Alice became kind of a hybrid of me at that time, and me a few years later.
TCR: Does that include the rumours as well?
KM: Yes, that happened to me!
TCR: Oh my Goodness, that’s awful! So sorry to hear that!
KM: Yes, this literally happened. And I had no idea what ‘tossing someone’s salad’ even meant but was something I wanted to include in the film.
TCR: It was so infuriating! Because all I could think about was how this happens to so many young adolescent girls, who are branded, tainted and shamed for something they don’t even understand, all whilst trying to figure out life and themselves. It’s so unfair.
TCR: Both your films [YES, GOD, YES, and OBVIOUS CHILD] focus on women’s sexuality. Is that intentional, because there aren’t many stories like this? Or a coincidence because of life & experiences. Is this something that you're looking to explore with future films also?
KM: intentional I guess, because these are real things that happen every day and because our male-driven society are seen as taboo, people can't deal with women making choices for their own bodies – there has been a lot of films where a women would accidentally get pregnant and then follow a narrative of developing a romance with whoever got her pregnant. That just isn’t reality and set up for the male gaze. It wasn’t what me and my friends were seeing in our lives and in our friends’ lives. Women get abortions and don’t always end up with said guy. I want to see women exploring their own bodies more. There are lot of films about male masturbation, they get to discover their sexuality all the time – e.g. American Pie - but I wanted to show the female part of it. We never see this side of things.
I think talking about these things and showing them in film will make them less taboo.
TCR: So, Yes, God, Yes, was originally a short film released in 2017? Can you talk us through the process of creating this into a feature film, and how did you find it as your directorial debut?
KM: Yes, but no. I had written the short film in 2014, shortly after I was done with Obvious Child, and the plan had always been to get someone else to direct it because I didn’t have any directing experience, but a friend of mine suggested I direct it myself. So, we made the short film as a pre-concept for the feature to prove that I could direct and help generate interest and funding. It was never really intended to be a short film it just got a lot of attention.
Funnily enough, I’ve seen some reviews that said the film “felt like this was a feature that was expanded from a short”, which is funny because the feature existed long, long before the short.
TCR: How did you get Natalia Dyer from Stranger Things involved?
KM: I have been a fan of hers since I BELIEVE IN UNICORNS. My producer suggested her for the short when we were casting that. Season one of STRANGER THINGS had just come out on Netflix so I quickly watched some of her scenes, and I really liked her. We sent her an email with the scripts, then her manager got in touch and she was on board.
TCR: How do you expect people to react to the film?
KM: As a filmmaker, you ideally want someone who really connects with your work and in some ways change someone’s life or society. That would make me really happy.
TCR: What’s your next project?
KM: I’m directing the first series of a TV show that’s based in London for the BBC and HBO Max, called STARSTRUCK, that is written by and starring this female comedian named Rose Matafeo, who’s from New Zealand - but that was interrupted by COVID, so, hopefully, we’ll get that back up and running again soon.
Thank you again to Karen Maine for this interview.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3/5)
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Director: Karen Maine
Runtime: 78 minutes
Studio: Vertical Entertainment
Hear more of what we thought about the film in our latest podcast episode.