If, like me, you grew up in the early 00s attending a Church of England school, you’ll find this coming of age comedy-drama amusingly rather relatable! The cast of Stranger Things are currently riding high in the major box office releases, with Charlie Heaton in The New Mutants and Joe Keery in Spree. However it’s Natalie Dyer’s turn to shine in Yes, God, Yes, an insightful teen indie which first premiered at last year’s SXSW Film Festival.
Written and directed by Karen Maine, Yes, God, Yes centres on shy teenager Alice (Natalia Dyer) who’s sexual awakening leads her to question her strict Catholic faith. When a malicious rumour spreads around her school that she’s engaged in certain sexual acts, Alice is sent to a strict religious retreat in the hope that she’ll toe the line.
It’s honestly so refreshing to see more films focusing on young women’s experiences, actually written and directed by a woman (gasp!) In Yes, God, Yes, Maine shines a light on Alice’s sexual awakening amidst her dedicated Catholic upbringing, bringing a gentle but funny insight to the forefront. The writer/director cleverly explores the holier-than-thou hypocrisy of the religious leader, shaming these young adults into believing they’ll be damned for all eternity if they have any sort of sex outside of marriage.
Focusing on morality and guilt primarily in Catholicism, the Father who lectures them on sex education ironically sneakily watches cheesy porn. Alice also amusingly discovers masterbation whilst playing snake on her Nokia, cheekily explores sexting over AOL chat (ASL?) and fantasises over a group leader’s hairy forearms – there’s a lot of awkwardly amusing, naughty scenarios.
Clocking in at a brisk 77-minute runtime, there’s not a huge amount of time to fit in a lot of depth to the film though. Aiming for a lighter tone than the similar The Miseducation of Cameron Post, the film attempts to ridicule faith retreats, while hitting a similar naivety of Eighth Grade.
Natalia Dyer (Stranger Things) shines as the awkward but endearing Alice. Her strong central performance steers the racier sections of the film from potentially uncomfortable to humorous, perfectly capturing the young naivety of adolescence. The scenarios she navigates at school, such as the malicious rumours and awkward interactions with her crush, are definitely relatable for most.
Wolfgang Novogratz is hilariously awkward as youth leader Chris, however the rest of the supporting cast aren’t quite given such good material. Father Murphy (Veep‘s Timothy Simons) and Mrs Veda (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s Donna Lynne Champlin) play out as stereotypical oppressive figures.
Yes, God, Yes is a refreshing and insightful coming of age drama, featuring a standout performance from Natalia Dyer. However when it comes to the exploration of hypocrisy in religious practices, there’s more bark than bite in the tame central message.