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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Yes, God, Yes is a semi-autobiographical teen comedy set in the early 2000s. It centers on Alice (Natalia Dyer of Stranger Things, a Catholic high school girl who accidentally ends up having a sexual internet chat with a stranger the same week that rumors spread at school about her and a classmate. Expect lots of discussion about sex, from virginity and Catholic views on premarital sex to specific sex acts and the reputation you can get for even allegedly doing something. There are also glimpses of a cybersex chat and pornography, as well as implied oral sex and masturbation, a couple of kisses, and an off-camera sex act that someone watches voyeuristically. Language is occasionally strong or insulting ("s--t," "slut," "perv," "a--hole," etc.), and there's one moment when a teen is served a wine cooler at a bar where adults are drinking. Families will be able to discuss their beliefs about sexism, sex, and religion after watching the film.
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What's the story?
YES, GOD, YES takes place in the early 2000s, when Alice (Natalia Dyer), an inexperienced teen attending a Catholic high school, accidentally ends up engaging in a suggestive AOL Instant Messenger chat. After the racy session, Alice's sexual feelings start blossoming. Meanwhile, at school, Father Murphy (Timothy Simons) teaches an abstinence lesson explaining that God's plan for sex is limited to one man, one woman, one marriage -- and that any sexual activity (including masturbation) before marriage goes against God's plans. Alice is then mistakenly implicated in a false rumor that she hooked up with a classmate at her best friend Laura's (Francesca Reale) party. Because of her newfound reputation, she's invited to attend a spiritual school retreat, where, instead of rededicating herself to abstinence, Alice falls in lust with her heartthrob small-group counselor (Wolfgang Novogratz).
Is it any good?
This well-written and performed sex-themed coming-of-age comedy is funny and amusingly quaint considering how much more open teens are 20 years after the movie's post-Y2K era. Despite being 25, Dyer is still youthful enough to believably play an older teen whose experiences with sex are mostly through pop culture (the Titanic car scene!) rather than real life. Alice is both amusingly naive and curious. She doesn't want to be labeled or judged, but she's undeniably interested in sex and arousal -- within the safe confines of a hot classmate. Writer-director Karen Maine -- who based the film partially on her own experiences -- depicts Alice's struggles as a commentary on the Catholic church's focus on abstinence until marriage, as well as the general sexism involved in high school sexual politics (Alice is shamed for purportedly doing something amoral and "vixenish" with a guy at a party).
Yes, God, Yes is set around the year 2000, with Titanic obsession, one classmate's love of Blink 182's 1999 album Enema of the State, and the old-fashioned technology (desktops, dial-ups, and AOL Instant Messenger) serving as the main clues to the timeline. Alice also mentions Oakley sunglasses, uses a flip phone, and references a few other popular-at-the-time items, but this isn't a movie that's steeped in nostalgia like Dyer's most famous project, Stranger Things. Maine's comedy is about sex, school, sexism, religion, and figuring out that sometimes well-meaning adults and friendly classmates are actually judgmental hypocrites. There's a lot to unpack, all of it unfavorable to the church and the patriarchy, and, while witty, the movie also seems almost safe by Gen Z standards. Many of today's high schoolers are more progressive and understanding regarding everything from gender identity and expression to sexual orientation to women's rights, so it's unclear who the ideal audience is for Yes, God, Yes. Still, it's entertaining and well executed enough that Maine should continue to chronicle adolescence and young adulthood.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Yes, God, Yes depicts sex. What are your family's thoughts about premarital or adolescent sexual experiences? Why do you think Alice struggles with her sexual feelings?
How do Alice's activities affect the people around her, including her friends, her sister, and her study pal, Cameron?
What role does the internet play in Alice's story? Why is it risky for teens to share intimate content online?
Is the idea of a "bad reputation" still relevant? What's changed in the past 20 years in regards to how teens view and deal with sex? What does it mean to be "sex positive"?
- On DVD or streaming: August 25, 2020
- Cast: Natalia Dyer, Alisha Boe, Wolfgang Novogratz
- Director: Karen Maine
- Studio: Vertical Entertainment
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Friendship, High School
- Character strengths: Self-control
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual content and some nudity
- Last updated: September 1, 2021
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