The Daily Stream: Yes, God, Yes Nails The Sinful Self Discovery Of The Early Internet Era

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "Yes, God, Yes"

Where You Can Stream It: Netflix

The Pitch: Based on director Karen Maine's viral short film, in the year 2000, Alice ("Stranger Things" star Natalia Dyer) is a sexually inexperienced but extremely curious junior attending a strict, Iowa Catholic high school. Alice has been taught her entire life that all sex acts (including masturbation) outside of married, heterosexual attempts at making children, are sinful and will result in eternal damnation. Feeling severely judged by her best friend Laura (Francesca Reale) and her teacher, Father Murphy (Timothy Simons), Alice struggles to accept her burgeoning urges of sexual desire, her newly formed fetish for men with hairy forearms after a spicy chat on AOL, and how it all conflicts directly with everything she's ever been told about sex despite how natural it feels. In this pre-social media era where pornography is still difficult to come by, "Yes, God, Yes" is a trip down a pixelated memory lane.

Why It's Essential Viewing

Coming-of-age films are nothing new, but films that explore the reality that teen girls are just as sexually curious and experiencing just as strong urges as teen boys, surprisingly is. "Yes, God, Yes" was unceremoniously dropped on Netflix in October of 2020, and has gone severely underseen because of it. I first caught the movie looking for films to cover on my coming-of-age movie podcast, This Ends at Prom, and absolutely fell in love. I fortunately did not grow up attending Catholic school, but I did grow up in one of the most religious areas in Illinois. It didn't matter how open or affirming my parents were, I was surrounded by the constant social messaging that everything I felt was "wrong" and that I should feel guilty for existing this way. "Yes, God, Yes" perfectly explores that absolute bulls*** we feed teenagers under the guise of morality, like how rewinding the car scene from "Titanic" is a sin.

Alice spends most of the movie feeling like there's something wrong with her for experiencing sexual desire, and after an un-true rumor circulates about her "tossing a guy's salad" at a party, she attends a Kirkos retreat (a very lightly fictionalized version of the real-life Kairos retreats) to try to make sense of what she's going through. The retreat is Catholic cringe to the max, including a group visualization exercise to Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" with the task of imagining the song is about Jesus' eyes. The ridiculousness of the retreat only furthers Alice's confusion, because it's hard to take anyone's word seriously when the nuns are reading "The Pelican Brief."

A Lesson In Hypocrisy

"Yes, God, Yes" is a serious coming-of-age film, but is deeply funny in the most unexpected ways. After Alice is punished with cleaning the mess hall after it is discovered that she didn't turn in her cell phone, the ultra-perfect Catholic Nina (Alisha Boe) brings her a s'mores since she didn't get to make them with the group. "We pretended each marshmallow was a mortal sin before burning it ... yours was lust," she says with a toothy smile. Even with alleged kind intent, everyone around Alice finds different ways to make her feel weird for her natural urges, and as Alice soon discovers, everyone around her is totally full of s***.

I don't think I need to educate anyone on the hypocrisy of all religious institutions in regard to sex, but "Yes, God, Yes" shreds it apart in some beautifully hilarious ways. If you loved Timothy Simons on "Veep," you will be absolutely obsessed with him as the sanctimonious Father Murphy. He feels like every "hip and cool" youth pastor you've ever seen, but without a hint of irony. It's a truly inspired performance, and one that makes Alice's vindication about realizing it's totally normal for a girl her age to be thinking about sex, even sweeter.

The Importance of Affirming Adults and Self Acceptance

When things get to be too much at the retreat, Alice bails and heads toward town, stopping at what turns out to be a lesbian bar. While she's there, she crosses paths with bar owner Gina (Susan Blackwell) and for the first time in her life, an adult gives her the honest truth, and doesn't make her feel like an idiot for being human. This moment is without a doubt one of the best "come-to-Jesus" moments in a coming-of-age film, pun fully intended. "I literally thought I was going to hell for eating gum drops" is a line that lives rent free in my head. Typically these adult-guiding-teenager moments happen in films in the form of parental guidance or a teacher, but "Yes, God, Yes" is a beautiful example of the importances of intergenerational community.

"What if we just tried to be honest and treat each other with respect? That is what Jesus wanted, right?" I hate to compare the two, but "Yes, God, Yes" feels like a spiritual sibling to "Lady Bird," but one with a little less A24 polish and a lot more uncomfortable realism. With so many films available on Netflix, plenty slip through the cracks and go unwatched unless someone tells you to go and look for it. Well, friends. This is me telling you to track down "Yes, God, Yes," and enjoy one of the best coming-of-age films in years.