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Natalia Dyer Explores Sin and Sexuality in Yes, God, Yes

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Rumors, sex, and self-discovery are hardly novel themes for a teen coming-of-age story, but when explored within the social structure of a Catholic high school, there’s an indoctrinated sense of shame and guilt around all of it. Yes, God, Yes, a new comedy out on VOD today from writer-director Karen Maine, presents the nuances of these experiences through a humorous and relatable lens. Starring Natalia Dyer as Alice, an early aughts high school student whose newfound sexual desires go against her religious values, the film navigates through the awkwardness and unknown with an unfiltered honesty.

Dyer, who plays Nancy Wheeler on Stranger Things, is familiar with exploring teenage tribulations in her work. She was drawn to Maine’s script for how it stood out among the others. “I played a handful of coming-of-age teenagers figuring themselves, figuring out sex and relationships,” the actress tells CR. “This one struck me as something that was so refreshingly different and funny.”

She and Maine worked together on Yes, God, Yes as a short film before it was made into a full feature that first debuted at SXSW in 2019. Together, the women uncover the inner conflict of female desire. Dyer’s character is the type to volunteer at mass and make sure her school uniform is always in line. Alice’s clean and sweet demeanor, however, is countered by her curiosity, which leads her to racy AOL chat rooms after school. When one of these exchanges introduces her to self-pleasure, the guilt-ridden Alice seeks guidance through a weekend retreat with classmates. But as temptation follows her, she discovers that she’s not the only one grappling with lust.

Dyer tapped into her own background growing up surrounded by a “conservative mindset” to relate to Alice. “Female sexuality wasn’t really talked about. People wouldn’t or probably couldn’t,” the Tennessee-native shares. With no guidance, it’s easy to feel lost. Yes, God, Yes tackles that feeling through Alice’s naïveté, drawing humor not at her expense but from the relatability of her awkward moments.

“It’s a very personal female experience and I think that’s what makes [the movie] more than just a plastic comedy,” Dyer says. “There’s real heart in there and [Alice] is going through something that I think needed that dive in.”

The film handles female sexuality and desire with nuance. For Dyer, it was an exercise in expressing the contradictions. “Female pleasure is generally very misunderstood and misrepresented,” she says. “I think there’s this refreshing thing about showing somebody who’s curious and confused, and there’s a lot of shame involved around it as well. There’s no real instruction, guidelines, and real conversation a lot of the time, so I think there’s a deep empathy for Alice.”

In searching for answers at the retreat, Alice only finds more questions. The repressive attitude of her Catholic peers, teachers, and priest uncover their own hypocritical contradictions, and it isn’t until Alice ventures outside that world, to a local dive bar, that she gets some clarity.

Through Maine’s filmmaking and Dyer’s candid performance, female storytelling gets a fresh face. Beyond the Catholic gatekeeping, Yes, God, Yes shows a sex-positive narrative that is relevant amidst today’s feminism and liberation of formerly taboo subjects. Dyer believes there are plenty of other female-centric coming-of-age tales to be told, too. “There’s so much room for so many more stories like this,” Dyer says. “I hope that there’s a comfort in [seeing] that other people are curious and experience something like that, too.”

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createdAt:Mon, 27 Jul 2020 22:21:56 +0000
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