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“Yes God Yes” Sees Natalia Dyer Discover Sexuality In A Surprisingly Chaste Manner

A coming of age story can take a number of routes when doing its thing. Some opt to really get raunchy, relying on sex to sell. Others focus on the emotional journey of a teenager. Few are able to meld the two cohesively, since there’s usually a high art/low art divide that gets in the way. This week, Yes God Yes is the kind of coming of age movie that manages to thread that needle. Now, there are a handful of bumps along the way, as well as an inconsistent tone, but the work of Natalia Dyer, as well as the genuine heart on display, rules the day.

The film is a mix of comedy and drama, set in the early 2000s. Sixteen-year-old Alice (Dyer) has always been a good Catholic girl in the Midwest, but that’s about to change. When an innocent AOL chat room excursion accidentally turns racy, she discovers masturbation for the first time. Remembering the teachings of her Catholic school instructors, especially Father Murphy (Timothy Simons) guilt overtakes her. However, so too does curiosity, so suppressing her urges proves difficult, as well as problematic, especially once a nasty rumor races throughout the school. Opting to attend a strange religious retreat Father Murphy runs, things only get worse. Her shame is only building, while her experimentation is only leading to more trouble. As she navigates these waters, she learns some truths not just about herself, but about her friends as well. Karen Maine writes and directs here, with cinematography by Todd Antonio Somodevilla. Ian Hultquist contributes the music. Supporting players include Susan Blackwell, Alisha Boe, Paige Hullett, Matt Lewis, Wolfgang Novogratz, Francesca Reale, Teesha Renee, Parker Wierling, and more.

Natalia Dyer gives a star-making turn here, delivering some reactions to the propaganda being put before her that are equal parts enraging and hilarious. Dyer is the heart and soul of the movie, without question. She shines bright in the cast, delivering incredibly effective reaction shots, almost single-handedly keeping the comedic vibe going. Additionally, her legitimate distress at not knowing what a certain sexual term means is both hilarious and a little heartbreaking. Dyer breathes incredible life into a good kid, as well as a normal one, who keeps being made to feel abnormal by others. It’s a universal story, told with some interesting specificity, and executed by Dyer with perfection.

Yes God Yes doesn’t always know what sort of tone it wants to have, sometimes struggling with when to be serious and when to be silly (with the sexual elements vacillating between the two tones), but whenever filmmaker Karen Maine trips, she gets back up with a solid subsequent scene that rights the ship. Moreover, Maine is totally aces at her music cues, including one at the end that’s an absolute riot. Those choices, along with casting Dyer, help put this one over the top. Maine is a storyteller worth watching out for, as this is evidence that she’s just getting started behind the camera.

This weekend, audiences looking for a nice little coming of age dramedy have a solid option in Yes God Yes. Not only is the material an interesting mix of sweet and spicy, it’s handled in such a way that anyone looking for one of those two moods won’t be put off by the presence of the other. Plus, Natalia Dyer is so good here, you’ll immediately see star potential in her. She’s going to be a big deal, folks. Mark my words. Give the film a look and you’ll almost immediately see what I mean.

Be sure to check out Yes God Yes, available on VOD this Friday!

(Photos courtesy of)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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