SXSW Film Review: Yes, God, Yes
God, guilt, and Titanic
By Shalavé Cawley,
7:30AM, Sat. Mar. 9, 2019
It’s a fact: Millions had their sexual awakenings to the infamous and steamy car scene in Titanic. This includes Karen Maine, whose feature directorial debut Yes, God, Yes is based on her own Catholic guilt-ridden discovery of masturbation as a Midwestern teenager in the early 2000s.
Maine’s onscreen surrogate is Alice (in a wonderfully understated performance by Stranger Things’ Natalia Dyer) who, fueled by the thrill of anonymous cybersex, reaches a hand down below and changes her life forever. But for Alice, masturbation is no solo act – God is right there with her, and Alice’s ensuing shame leads her to attend a religious youth retreat with hopes of redemption. Alas, she cannot escape her newfound desires; she finds herself tempted by everything from a vibrating cell phone to the gorilla-like arm hair on a cute boy.
Over the course of those four days, Alice navigates her evolving relationship with her body in an environment where self-pleasure warrants punishment by 50 Hail Marys and probably eternal damnation. Maine captures this struggle with the good-natured humor of someone who has realized the ridiculousness of this logic yet harbors no hard feelings. Lust is no mortal sin; everyone – even the most seemingly devout – experience and act on it. Though the subject of teenage sexuality is tricky territory, it is one the film never exploits but instead sweetly explores. Dyer’s masturbation scenes feel innocent as opposed to titillating, and she charms with her mix of cautious curiosity and wide-eyed expressions.
On the last day, retreatgoers are encouraged to take what they’ve learned there and apply it to their everyday lives. For Alice, this means rejecting judgement, letting go of shame, and realizing she’s not going to hell for falling victim to the ocean blue eyes of young Leonardo DiCaprio.
Narrative Feature Competition, World PremiereSaturday, March 9, 6pm, Alamo South Lamar C
Thursday, March 14, 11:30am, Alamo South Lamar D