Yes, God, Yes (4 stars)

Yes, God, Yes

Charming teen comedy from Karen Maine focusing on a Catholic schoolgirl's sexual awakening

The screenwriter of Obvious Child, Karen Maine, is a woman with lots to say and an unerringly accessible, very amusing way of presenting provocative situations. After taking on the taboo topic of abortion she gets stuck into masturbation in her semi-autobiographical directorial debut. It's a subject rendered all the more complicated by the context – as a Catholic schoolgirl arrives at a religious retreat with her hormones raging and the threat of hellfire hovering overhead.

Set in the early 00s, it stars Natalia Dyer (Nancy from Stranger Things) as Alice, a strait-laced Midwest teen who is the subject of outrageous rumours at school. However, her sexual experience extends only to acts of self-pleasure prompted by a certain scene in Titanic and an eye-opening encounter in an AOL chatroom. When she heads off on a much talked about and mysterious bible camp, she starts lusting after one of the group leaders – the perpetually beaming and slightly gormless Chris (Wolfgang Novogratz) – whose hairy arms set her pulse racing.

A female protagonist in an American teen sex comedy is unusual indeed, and much of the humour comes from Alice's priceless reactions, communicated with abundant aplomb by Dyer, who is note-perfect in her portrayal of a good Christian girl on a quest for kicks, who – to her great credit – isn't easily dissuaded. If the talent in the supporting cast (which includes Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's Donna Lynne Champlin, and Veep's Timothy Simons as a hypocritical priest) is slightly under-utilised, their presence is certainly welcome.

Most endearingly, the lovely light and frothy tone lifts Yes, God, Yes well clear of the tawdry, shameful stigma attached to Alice's actions by those she looks to for guidance, emphasising that what she's up to is actually perfectly natural – and it turns out that everyone else is at it anyway. Although the material is cheeky, it never feels crude and, as Alice learns to love herself in every which way, it's all surprisingly charming.

Available to watch on demand from Mon 17 Aug.

Yes, God, Yes

  • 4 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 1h 18min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Karen Maine
  • Cast: Natalia Dyer, Timothy Simons, Wolfgang Novogratz, Francesca Reale, Susan Blackwell, Parker Wierling, Alisha Boe, Donna Lynne Champlin