Yes - Review
Review by Jack Foley
YES is a truly infuriating experience. On the one hand, it’s a passionate, thought-provoking exploration of multi-cultural relationships in a post 9/11 world. On the other, it’s a pretentious arthouse movie that is prone to too much artistic excess.
Yes has plenty to say, but it may well leave you with a sense of dismay.
It’s script is relayed entirely in verse, which may eventually leave you wanting to curse.
That it actually contains some wonderful performances and treats its material with the respect it deserves only makes matters worse.
The film is directed by Sally Potter, of Orlando and Man Who Cried fame, and is intended as an urgent response to the rapid demonisation of the Arabic world in the West and to the parallel wave of hatred against America.
Joan Allen stars as She, an Irish-American molecular biologist trapped in a stale marriage to Sam Neill’s English politician, Anthony.
At a posh reception one night, She meets the enigmatic He (Simon Abkarian), an attendant of Middle Eastern origin who immediately begins to flirt with her, and the two begin an affair.
In the passion-filled weeks that ensue, He and She discuss, in verse, issues such as religion, politics and sex – only to have their relationship put to the test by other people’s prejudices and the unstable climate that exists around them.
In terms of performance alone, Potter’s film hits all the right notes with Allen especially strong in conveying the tortured emotions of her strong but vulnerable character.
Abkarian is also very charismatic and suitably passionate about his background, while Neil expertly conveys the frustrations of someone trapped in a lifeless marriage.
Yet all their good work is undermined by Potter who continually employs unnecessary techniques to lessen the impact of her film.
The verse becomes extremely annoying, threatening to divert attention away from what is actually being said, while several bits of camera trickery seem like a blatant attempt to show off by the director.
For a film that is supposed to be dealing with real and pertinent issues, it has the effect of making them feel unreal and unstable.
The overall result, therefore, is a film that is damn-near impossible to say Yes to.