What do you do when you’re a teenage girl discovering your sexuality but the church tries to make you believe that love and lust outside of marriage are pretty evil? Director and screenwriter Karen Maine tries her hand at it YES, GOD, YES! BAD GIRLS DON’T CONFESS a coming-of-age film of a slightly different kind. We’ll reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Yes, God, Yes (USA 2019)
It’s not easy as a teenager. Especially not if you grow up like Alice (Natalia Dyer) in a strict Catholic household in rural America. At school she is taught that sex before marriage is a sin and that masturbation is also a direct route to hell. Alice begins to ponder: Not only because she enjoys watching the sex scene from “Titanic” over and over again, she also allows herself to be carried away by unchaste actions in online chat – what’s wrong with her? Four days in a church camp are supposed to get Alice back on the right path. Group confessions, Bible studies and prayers are on the agenda. But how is Alice supposed to remember her Christian values when sweet football star Chris keeps running into her?
At first glance, the feature film debut of “Yes, God, Yes!” director and author Karen Maine reminds us of two different types of film: On the one hand, the American film, based on her own short film of the same name, portrays her story like a classic coming-of-age film. of Age story. The focus is on its protagonist Alice, who discovers her sexuality in just 78 minutes of running time and thus takes a decisive step closer to adulthood. On the other hand, “Yes, God, Yes!”, despite its rather humorous tone, is reminiscent of one of those typical “conversion films”: “The Prodigal Son,” for example, in which a young man portrayed by Lucas Hedges is sent to a re-education camp to be “cured” for being gay. Now, “Yes, God, Yes!” is not about a homosexual person, but the supposed “sin” is the same: physical love – and the strict Catholic religious community in which Alice grew up is definitely against that. Not staging this clash between pubertal curiosity and ultra-conservative upbringing as a grueling drama is a laudable approach. But that seems to be pretty much the only one Karen Maine is pursuing at all. Apart from that, “Yes, God, Yes!” is pretty meaningless.
Alice (Natalia Dyer) goes to church regularly.
Lead actress Natalia Dyer (“The Art of the Dead Man”) Although her Alice is presented as a figure of sympathy and thus a figure of identification for a group of young people in the audience – scenes in which Alice secretly has her first cybersex experiences in the AOL chat or places a vibrating cell phone on her mons pubis out of curiosity, she plays with a mischievous reserve ; She knows she’s not allowed to, so she doesn’t do too much, but she can’t quite stop herself. These moments of sexual discovery don’t even have anything disreputable, but instead thrive on Alice’s lack of experience. You don’t have to grow up in this ultra-conservative “sex is evil!” environment to be able to understand how Alice is feeling right now. And yet, on the other hand, there are plenty of scenes in which identification doesn’t really work. However, this is only partially due to the actress herself. Rather, it’s the half-baked script that doesn’t know what to do with the situation – and the main character – in various moments. Yes, there are these (not always narratively necessary) erotic-experimental scenes in which Alice explores her body. “Yes, God, Yes!”, on the other hand, doesn’t tell us what the experiences we gather do to Alice, her sexuality and her body image.
“There are plenty of scenes in which identification doesn’t really work. However, this is only partially due to the actress. Rather, it is the half-baked script that in various moments does not know what to do with the situation – and also the main character.
Instead, Karen Maine strings together individual, sometimes even quite passable sequences like piecemeal, each with a completely different intention. Sometimes the members of the church community act so exaggeratedly that “Yes, God, Yes!” could also be interpreted as a parody. But such moments are far too rare. Much more often, the habits and sermons presented lack the necessary criticism, which brings us back to the starting point: “Yes, God, Yes!” is not nearly as drastic as the numerous “Stop being homosexual, or you “You’re going to hell!” films, but the radical way in which the members of the religious community are portrayed here is very similar. What differs between the films is their criticism – because “Yes, God, Yes!” falls behind. Instead, Karen Maine settles for a single scene in which the viewer is shown the bigotry of this institution. When she shows the person who loudly preaches abstinence to his students masturbating in front of internet porn. Not only is this clumsy, but it doesn’t add anything new to the premise.
Hugging from the side is allowed – but Alice would like to get even closer to Chris (Wolfgang Novogratz)…
The lack of discussion of the students’ highly questionable educational methods – especially later in the church camp – gives the impression throughout the film that Karen Maine is not entirely sure whether sex and masturbation are actually evil or not. She always manages to evoke understanding for Alice’s confusion when she literally adopts her perspective. Scenes in which she observes the hairy arms of a handsome boy or masturbates herself with a broomstick at least give a sense of her sexual desire. But “Yes, God, Yes!” lacks the urgently needed liberation – because in the end Alice is just as insecure as before. And otherwise the young woman remains reduced to her sexual inexperience. It’s difficult to attribute certain traits to her, which also contributes to the film as a whole being tonally bland. “Yes, God, Yes!” isn’t funny enough to be a comedy and lacks the emotional punch to be a drama. And for a coming-of-age film, the emotional maturation of the protagonist is very limited in the end.
“And otherwise the young woman remains reduced to her sexual inexperience. It’s difficult to attribute certain traits to her, which also contributes to the film as a whole being tonally bland.”
“Yes, God, Yes!” also remains unspectacular in terms of production. Now it may also be partly due to the filmmaker’s low budget and lack of directing experience that her work does not stand out in terms of audiovisual quality. But her work is sometimes not just inconspicuous, it lacks a sense of aesthetics. If used more consistently, messy cuts, poor lighting and blurry tracking shots can even have something documentary-like about them. In “Yes, God, Yes!”, however, it seems rather sloppy.
Conclusion: “Yes, God, Yes!” “Bad Girls Don’t Confess” is a tonally half-baked hybrid of coming-of-age drama and exaggerated church criticism. Unfortunately, director and author Karen Maine neither sufficiently formulates one approach nor the other – nor does she reconcile them.
The cinema release of “Yes, God, Yes!” was postponed due to Corona. Bad Girls Don’t Confess” will be announced soon.