Friday, July 31, 2020


On digital and VOD today:

Yes, God, Yes--Teenage Alice stumbles into a dirty online chat one day after school and finds herself on the verge of masturbating; she's interrupted, in what turns into a running gag. Being a good Catholic schoolgirl, she has been taught that the wages of sex outside of marriage--even just with yourself--is eternal torment. She's already guilt-ridden over having replayed the Leo-and-Kate sex scene in Titanic three times.

So she goes on one of those four-day retreats where she gets further lectured and browbeaten and socially pressured, all under the pretext of therapeutic tenderness, and this, along with exposure to a friendly, handsome counselor whose arm hair mesmerizes her, only seems to make her urges stronger. Also, there's a rumor going around that she "tossed the salad" of another boy, and she doesn't know what that means.

This coming-of-age comedy, written and directed by Karen Maine (based on her 2017 short), gets at a theme that isn't discussed often enough: the conflict between the normal sexual impulses of adolescence and the cosmically, existentially terrifying prospect of being damned to hell for all eternity. It seems like one of the more vile forms of abuse practiced by organized religion, and, experience suggests, one of the most hypocritical.

Maine, who co-wrote the story for 2014's Obvious Child, seems very in touch with her anger about this, but she keeps it low-key; her touch is light and funny and observant. Anybody who's ever been on a church retreat, Catholic or not, will immediately recognize the world Maine creates.

And the cast is strong, especially the waiflike Natalia Dyer, an actress unknown to me as I am apparently one of the half-dozen people in the U.S. who still hasn't seen Stranger Things. Dyer is awfully good as Alice, down the rabbit hole of morality and propriety versus hormones and nerve endings. Maine has, perhaps wisely, left the role unwritten; the dialogue isn't glib teen-movie-speak, so it's left to Dyer to get across Alice's awakening through wide-eyed takes.

She's hilarious, but her befuddlement also arouses our sympathy. When Alice finally gets an outside perspective on her predicament, it's like she's found her way out of a cave.

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