Yes, God, Yes

 

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Netflix spotlights another promising female voice in a comedy-drama that is fresh in execution if not in theme.

   

Yes, God, Yes

Natalia Dyer 

 

Netflix may just be the best thing to happen to independent film since Sundance. The platform that the streaming giant provides makes it easier than ever for young filmmakers to get discovered – and for their films to reach a wider audience.

 

Karen Maine’s debut feature Yes, God, Yes is one such that benefits from the indie film pipeline of festival-to-streaming. The comedy-drama tells the story of Alice (played by Stranger Things’ Natalia Dyer) as she struggles with the ultra-conservative Christian teachings of her community and church that are conflicting with her newly discovered sexuality. The plot is very standard, well-trodden ground. In a bigger studio release, the lack of originality might have counted as a strike against it. Even though it doesn’t necessarily say anything new or take any major risks, it is evident that Maine is telling a very personal story, which helps it distinguish itself from others in its lane.

 

The cinematography is very muted, with a grey, desaturated colour palette, which confuses the tone a bit. The comedic moments are dampened a bit too much and the dramatic moments seem a bit too prescriptive. The film is saved by the cast. Dyer channels her inner adolescent and plays Alice with a perfect mixture of awkwardness and naïveté. We follow her journey from good, innocent church girl to confident young woman, and Dyer carries us through with a youthful energy and charisma. Her performance is the standout, the marking of a star-bound young actress. Timothy Simons (known for his hilarious turn as Jonah on HBO’s Veep) also leaves a strong impression as the Father of the local church, and leader of Alice’s Christian Youth Group Retreat. Simons delicately balances what can be inferred as authentic faith and belief in God with the typical hypocritical actions of a man in power that is to be expected from this type of story. His performance is solid and funny, and with Dyer, creates a truly wonderful scene near the end that subtly examines the dissonance between his teachings and actions.

 

Yes, God, Yes has an extremely brief runtime of 77 minutes, which leads to a brisk pace and an occasional sense of missed opportunities to develop a few minor characters and thematic elements. Nonetheless, Maine manages to leave an impact, and leaves no doubt that she is a filmmaker with stories to tell. I hope that in future projects she is able to find more original ways to tell them.

 

CALEB JOHN CUSHING

 

Cast: Natalie Dyer, Timothy Simons, Wolfgang Novogratz, Francesca Reale, Susan Blackwell, Parker Wierling, Alisha Boe, Donna Lynne Champline, Matt Lewis.

 

Dir Karen Maine, Pro Katie Cordeal, Colleen Hammond, Eleanor Columbus and Rodrigo Teixeira, Screenplay Karen Maine, Ph Todd Antonio Somodevilla, Pro Des Sally Levi, Ed Jennifer Lee, Music Ian Hultquist, Costumes Brittany Loar.

 

Maiden Voyage/RT Features/Highland Film Group-The Movie Partnership.

77 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 25 November 2020. Available on Netflix. Cert. 15.