I’ve never even heard of dressing someone’s salad.
There’s no question that religion is a powerful tool insofar as its partnership with faith. While prayer is never going to literally save someone’s life, it can create the hope and positivity necessary to heal from emotional, psychological, and physical hardship. Our minds have a way of dictating how our bodies react to suffering and being part of a community that cares and empathizes with your plight as you do theirs cultivates a path forward both through healing and the acceptance of healing’s impossibility. Where things often go off the rails, however, is the notion that religion demands a formal structure to provide that path. And it’s the structure itself that ultimately pushes this narrative for its own survival. In the face of its obsolescence, the church adjusted.
Those entrenched within may forever be blind to that adjustment’s name, but those who’ve left or never fully entered its covenant in the first place know it quite well: oppression through fear. The moment our world became a capitalist entity replacing God with the false idol of money was the moment the church moved away from compassion in order to embrace control. You have to attend services each week. You have to tithe. You have to suppress your desires and dreams to walk a pious path wherein it becomes your sole sanctuary and living cure. Suddenly the faith that protected you becomes a politicized prison telling you who you can love and what you can do without exception. What the church loses through alienation, it gains through zealotry.
We all therefore must make a choice. Stay or go. Leaving doesn’t mean forsaking religion or faith in God, but forsaking the establishment that has usurped the benefits of both for its own prosperity. And before you say the decision should be an easy one, remember that there are wide swathes of America that indoctrinate its children into this cult-like existence from birth. These places have made hypocrisy their largest export and you can sure bet that they’ve left plenty of bodies in their wake while striving to achieve their goal. I mean that literally due to violent exclusionary tactics towards the LGBTQ community and figuratively via the systematic destruction of individuality and passion. The latter is what Alice (Natalia Dyer) faces during Karen Maine‘s Yes, God, Yes.
The film proves a humorously scathing indictment of that hypocrisy by positioning this young teenager at the precipice of choosing between what Father Murphy (Timothy Simons) says is a life of prosperity or sin. He steers kids towards the former through shame and watches as others take up the call to follow suit. The unfortunate truth is that such tactics often negatively affect the most pious simply because they would never target another first. Alice goes to church with her father every Sunday, goes out of her way to be chaste around boys, and feels embarrassment when her best friend Laura (Francesca Reale) calls out her lustful fantasies. So why is she the target of a cruel sexual lie? Why is her word worth less than the horde?
It’s the acknowledgement of the answer to this question that creates the first crack in Alice’s as yet unwavering resolve. To see how quickly these supposed God-fearing people are to lie (actively or by omission) in order to preserve their own reputation and thus vanity by deflection or distraction at the cost of the truth is to see behind the curtain. One glimpse leads to another until the deceit wielded by everyone around her at a church-sanctioned retreat is all she can see. And what does she earn by speaking up? More disrespect. It can no longer be about who knows what actually happened when whomever speaks first sways public opinion into believing that which didn’t happen somehow did. Who can Alice turn to when surrounded by liars?
Maine goes for the jugular as far as highlighting a truth we always used to laugh about as teenagers: that Catholic school kids were without a doubt more sex-crazed than their public school counterparts. Rather than guide actions, repression merely forces kids to learn how best to hide them. So while people in authority positions (Father Murphy, Donna Lynne Champlin‘s totalitarian Mrs. Veda, or senior teen leaders like Alisha Boe‘s Nina and Wolfgang Novogratz‘s Chris) speak about proper conduct in public, you can sure bet they’re doing the exact opposite in private. And because Alice’s uncertainty about her own actions leaves her unable to sufficiently lie and thus vulnerable enough to consistently get caught, her punishments put her in places everyone else thought were safe from prying eyes.
The comedy that arises from making the sweetest, most innocent girl on-screen watch as the others engage in clandestinely hedonistic pleasures from afar is boundless thanks in part to Dyer’s ability to throw a wide-eyed, scandalized look whenever the situation demands it. We can relate to the discomfort her Alice confronts whenever those in positions to shame her have the gall to ask her to trust them because we’ve seen how rumors that only adults should know have traveled like wildfire to the other children’s ears and vice versa. She can’t tell them that her sexual urges have become uncontrollable after an unwanted nude photo sent by someone in an AOL chat-room opens the floodgates (the film takes place during the early Aughts). She can only shame herself.
Credit Maine for realizing the laughs earned will come at the detriment of her lead’s wellbeing if she’s unable to also provide this teen assistance from outside the cultish bubble. So while the classmates and teachers Alice called friends and mentors step on her struggles to pretend their own don’t exist, others around her are willing to cut through that façade. Maybe it’s the weird girl everyone avoids (Gabriella Garcia) revealing an infectious personality when Alice dares give her a chance or an adult (Susan Blackwell) who knows the contradictions of Catholicism all too well. It’s no coincidence that their honesty allows Alice to breathe easy and help render the borders of her echo chamber visible. Only then can she finally live for herself and tell Jesus to deal.
courtesy of Vertical Entertainment