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Yes, God, Yes
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Are You There, AOL? It's Me, Alce. . ."
4 stars

My guess is that if you are female, Catholic (current or otherwise) or spent your adolescent years during those bygone years when AOL was all the rage, many aspects of “Yes, God, Yes” will resonate with you with pinpoint clarity. However, even if you do not happen to fall into any of these categories, there is still much to enjoy about the film.

Set in those hazy days in the early part of this century, the film introduces us to Alice (Natalia Dyer), a 16-year-old Catholic school girl whose coming of age has advanced far enough for her to know at exactly what point in the cassette of “Titanic” she can find the Good Part but naive enough so that when a sexual rumor about her spreads among her classmates, she cannot understand what a tossed salad has to do with anything. When she inadvertently stumbles into an online chat of a decidedly adult nature, this leads her to a new avenue of exploration and these new feelings are weighing heavily on her when she and several of her classmates go off for a four-day-long religious retreat that is supposed to help strengthen her commitment to Jesus in the face of sin but which does not exactly have the intended effect as she struggles to come to terms with the perils and pleasures of both self-discovery and self-gratification.

Although my description may make it sound like a raunchy sex comedy, writer-director Karen Maine (who co-wrote the wonderful “Obvious Child” and who makes her feature directorial debut here, expanding on her 2017 short of the same name) utilizes a lighter and infinitely more engaging tone that stresses recognizable behaviors, emotions and incidents—some of them eminently squirm-worthy and not in a good way—over gross-out jokes based in cruelty, humiliation and a desire to offend. The film also has a wonderful funny, sincere and knowing performance from Dyer (the “Stranger Things” co-star who also appeared in the original short) as Alice and a gallery of good supporting turns as well, the most notable being a late-inning contribution fro Susan Blackwell, whose character I will leave for you to discover but who delivers some late-inning words of wisdom that do not just feel like the screenwriter trying to make sure that everyone gets the film’s underlying message.

Short, sweet and with hardly a wasted moment. “Yes, God, Yes” is a genuine charmer and if Maine ever decided to do a followup a couple of years down the road to show us where Alice is in life, it would be a sequel that I would be genuinely happy to see.

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originally posted: 07/24/20 00:53:21
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2019 South by Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2019 South by Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

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