This one time, at banned camp… Yes, God, Yes (2020) Review

Yes, God, Yes Review

“Yes, God, Yes”, the feature debut of writer/ director Karen Maine, is a charming coming-of-age tale, with the emphasis very much on the first word of that phrase.

Alice (Natalia Dyer) is a pupil at a strict Catholic school where sex education focusses on abstinence before marriage and that procreation is the only acceptable reason to have intercourse. As for masturbation, it’s dismissed out of hand as an affront to God. Unfortunately for Alice, a repeated viewing of a certain scene in “Titanic” has awoken urges in her that she fears may damn her to Hell, an awakening compounded by an accidental foray into cybersex in an AOL chatroom. To avoid a purgatorial fate, she signs up to a weekend bible retreat where she learns more than she expected about who exactly has the right to cast the first stone when it comes to sins of the flesh.

Despite its horny adolescent characters and repressed high school setting, this is no teen sex comedy. You’re not watching “American Pie Communion Wafer”. Instead, it sits alongside the likes of “Booksmart” and “Eighth Grade” as cringingly amusing, well-observed and authentic explorations of adolescent life. With “Yes, God, Yes”, though, there’s an added layer of satirical critique laying bare the insidious hypocrisy at the heart of American religious conservatism in particular and Catholicism in general.

The naturalistic approach works so much better and feels so much more genuine than the forced raunch of the 1990s and Natalia Dyer is pitch perfect as the young woman struggling to find her own sense of sexuality in a maelstrom of conflicting advice and instructions. From dealing with rumour, gossip and innuendo through to finding out that none of those who have stood in judgement of her are entirely justified in their piety themselves, Alice’s journey of self-discovery and self-exploration is handled with a smart balance of embarrassment and empathy.

There are tremendous character moments for many of the supporting cast too, including a microwave-based metaphor that’s laugh out loud funny and whether you experienced the kind of strict upbringing being skewered here or had a more open-minded adolescence, there’ll be moments in “Yes, God, Yes” which will ring a bell or – possibly – push your buttons.

“Yes, God, Yes” is currently streaming on Netflix.

Score 7