The Beach House (2020) | SHUDDER
Karen Maine’s debut feature Yes, God, Yes is like a sister film to Lady Bird but with all the Catholic guilt.
I have many things to say, but I will keep it concise. Simply put, I adored every turn this film took. I liked that it wasn’t super predictable and that it played out very naturally. I thought it was as hilarious as it was nostalgic and compelling. From the intimidation of the “ASL?” from a stranger on the internet to the intensity of self discovery. I’m not sure if this was auto-biographical, but it surely captured my own Catholic upbringing in so many ways. I feel very ~seen~. It was surprising but liberating to see a kairos retreat played out in a film since they’re supposed to be “secret” where newcomers aren’t to know what happens beforehand. Yes, it sounds like a cult, which is literally what I said when I was invited to one the summer I graduated high school. I didn’t have the worst time like Alice, but I certainly shared her subtle uncertainty. I really respect Maine for putting it out there like that. Speaking of, I really got a kick out of the “kirkos” spelling instead of the actual spelling “kairos.”
Alice, a high school girl, discovers the erotic side of AOL messenger when she is sent naughty photos, unleashing her urge to seek self pleasure. She goes on a religious retreat with her school to try to help her curve her new temptations all while being scrutinized by her friends, fellow classmates, and faculty over a rumor that she had sex with another classmate.
Throughout the film we hear of this alleged story that we as the audience aren't even sure of it's truth, but it doesn’t really matter. I felt Alice’s embarrassment in my soul, and I don’t think a film has ever done that for me in such a direct way. The story really hones in on what it's like to live in a mindset where every little thing you do is sure to send you to Hell. I think it’s also an excellent commentary on how young girls like Alice are held up on pedestals to be perfect or they’ll be punished while their male counterparts like Wade are not.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
As one of my favorites from the Stranger Things cast, it’s nice to see Natalia Dyer in a leading role like this. She captures that daunting self doubt and uncertainty teenage girls experience at that age so effortlessly. Everyone else was great in terms of showing how much Alice stands out from them. Timothy Simmons plays the strictly business but comforting Father Murphy. Alisha Boe plays Nina, a classmate as well as a kirkos group leader who seems unnaturally too nice for comfort. The whole Jesus camp vibes and over the top nice personality fronts of everyone at the retreat really do emulate how far out it might feel to someone who isn’t feeling the experience. A very quick but memorable performance was played by Susan Blackwell as the bar owner who understands Alice outside of her confined bubble of people she can’t connect to. It’s something that is important for Alice’s character arc, but I think the two of them on screen together was my favorite part of the whole film.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
'Lady Bird' but with all the Catholic guilt
I had a hard time looking away from the screen. I loved the dull fluorescent lit scenery like the gym or the rec room at the camp, with the color being in the costumes or props (i.e. Alice’s bright yellow Nokia *chefs kiss*). Everyone was pretty much in navy blue or orange while at “kirkos,” and I don’t know what it is about those colors that make me trust a film, but it just did. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a Chicago Bears household so it feels like home? I just know it worked for me. The shots of the bare trees around the lake had me feeling really nostalgic for the woods and the cool autumn air. We love a fall-y camp setting!
Yes, God, Yes (2020) | VOD
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The film doesn’t heavily rely on it’s score. When it did show up I found it to be really light and uplifting at times, but its overall very mellow and relaxed. As a period piece set in the 2000s we get some of my favorite throwback hits including Mandy Moore’s Candy and even a stellar cover of Christina Aguilera’s Genie in a Bottle.
This movie kind of overwhelmed me as I didn’t expect to relate to it so much going in. I tend to gravitate towards coming of age films that explore a young person’s path of faith, because I’ve always struggled with my own. But I also think there’s so much to relate to in terms of feeling judged and alone when you’re not fitting a certain mold, whether you’re religious or not. This is definitely a contender for my favorite film of 2020. Yes, God, Yes is available to rent now on Amazon and Google Play.