Yes, God, Yes Walks The Line Between Satire and Romanticism Perfectly
Rewinding Titanic to the steamy part while exploring your sexuality is the very essence of the early 2000s
It’s a very difficult thing to make a film centered on religion and not come off as either extremely anti-religious or perhaps a little too religious. If the film in question leans too far into one camp then the story will totally alienate one side of the audience, causing whatever lessons that were to be learned by watching the movie to fall flat on half of the viewers. While it’s the job of film (and art in general) to challenge an audience, alienating them won’t allow them to be able to empathize with the story and characters on screen. Yes, God, Yes brilliantly walks that line as it tells an honest story about being uncomfortable in your own skin while trying to navigate your faith.
The movie takes place in the early aughts as we follow a sexually curious teenager named Alice who attends a Midwestern co-ed Catholic high school. In typical high school fashion a rumor is started that Alice “tossed” another students “salad”, the meaning of which is comedically kept from Alice throughout the movie. Alice decides to attend a religious retreat with her classmates, which is complicated now because of the lie floating around that she is a sexual deviant. She has to not only navigate her growing sexual curiosities while constantly being told those curiosities are wrong, but she also has found herself swept up in a lie that she didn’t want to be part of.
Anyone who has attended any sort of Christian camp before knows how awkward it can be when you are first adjusting. Everyone in charge seems to be really nice, warm, and perfect in every way (it’s a lot of pressure to also strive for saintliness). The movie cleverly and slowly reveals that the leaders of this retreat aren’t as perfect as they seem or preach to be, often engaging in the very same acts and behaviors that they had demonized and condemned the day before. Writer/director Karen Maine cleverly shows the hypocrisy hidden within these organizations and how kids are made to feel impure for embracing who they really are. The writing never shies away from showing the ugliness of people that can be present within religious groups, without directly vilifying the religion itself; which is an important distinction that filmmakers often get wrong.
While the movie intelligently picks apart the problems present in religious institutions, the story isn’t without comedy. Only someone who has grown up in these specific situations could so lovingly laugh at some of the things Christian kids are subjected to. From being taught that boys are like microwave ovens (because the turn on quickly and easily), to the awkwardness of sexting when you don’t know what you are doing, to pretending to fall down and hurt yourself so that your crush can carry you away like a knight in shinning armor. One particularly funny scene is when Alice is confused by the term “tossing salad” while she licks the chocolate off of a pudding cup lid.
The movie neither demonizes nor praises being part of a religious group. What you choose to believe and follow is entirely up to you, just as it’s completely up to someone else what they believe and how they behave. Alice isn’t immoral for being who she is and for being curious about her sexuality, it’s normal and natural to follow that curiosity. The lesson the film is trying to teach us is that the sin isn’t to ignore your body and your feelings, the sin is to demonize others and condemn their actions and beliefs. For Alice she can still be a Christian and explore her sexuality, being comfortable in who she is is the most important thing for her. After all, the story clearly shows none of us know what we are doing and are all just trying to figure it out as we go along.