(director/writer: Karen Maine; cinematographer: Todd Antonio Somodevilla; editor: Jennifer Lee; music: Ian Hultquist; cast: Susan Blackwell (Gina), Timothy Simons  (Father Murphy), Alisha Boe (Nina), Natalia Dyer (Alice), Francesca Reale (Laura),  Parker Wierling (Wade), Allison Shrum (Heather), Wolfgang Novogratz (Chris), Carey Van Driest (Mom), Matt Lewis (Dad), Donna Lynne Champlin (Mrs. Veda); Runtime: 78; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Katie Cordeal/Colleen Hammond, Eleanor Columbus, Rodrigo Yeixeira; Vertical Entertainment; 2019)

“Correctly nails how reactionary and out of touch the Catholic Church can be on sexual matters.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Karen Maine, in her feature debut, offers a gentle comedic semi-autobiographical account of her experience in a Catholic parochial high school as a student. She tells of being filled as a student with Catholic guilt and a growing awareness of the church’s hypocrisy. The film was expanded from the same named film she did in 2017. “Yes” is an observant coming-of-age indie, telling how the heroine, a substitute for the director, Alice (Natalia Dyer), deals with her naivety and sexual awakening while a student. It never gives a definite time period when the film is set, but it seems to be some time in the late 1990s or early turn of the century.

Alice is a 16-year-old virgin who lives in the Midwest (the director went to school in Iowa). The school provides an unreal view of sex, as sex is negatively dished out by her morals teacher, the humorless and strict Father Murphy (Timothy Simons). The awkward priest is adamant that
any sexual activity outside of marriage is tabu.  He includes masturbation with recreational sex as against church dogma. Sex is only tolerated by the church for married couples to have children.

Alice’s sexual interest is aroused watching a VHS of “Titanic” and getting hot over the steamy love scenes between Winslet and DiCaprio.

A real downer is a false rumor started about her by the crass fellow student Wade (Parker Wierling)—saying falsely that she had “tossed the salad” with him. That leads to her being thought of as a “loose girl” by some classmates (and, by Mrs. Veda (
Donna Lynne Champlin), the pregnant lay school disciplinarian who walks the halls making sure the school dress code is followed). Even Alice’s best friend, who sticks by her, Laura (Francesca Reale), starts having her doubts.

On the internet, Alice clicks onto a chat group
and stumbles upon a married couple wanting another female to join them in a threesome. This confuses her and makes her even more curious about sex.

The slight film, with no edge, is competently made, and delivers a proper lesson in tolerance. It studiously observes how the church points its moralistic fingers at masturbation, at those having impure thoughts and at those having sex when single, but is hypercritical about what it preaches.

The film is enlivened by an engaging performance by
Natalia Dyer, who struggles to overcome her innocence and curiosity about sex while trying to be a good person. In its simplicity, it correctly nails how reactionary and out of touch the Catholic Church can be on sexual matters.

The indie received a special jury prize for best ensemble after its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival.

Natalia Dyer in “Yes, God, Yes.”