Tag Archives: teen dramas

Yes, God, Yes – a Smart And Funny Exploration Of Teenage Sexuality.

Yes, God, Yes; Dir. -Karen Maine

Rating –  “It’s great” / worth adding to your collection.

Yes, God, Yes is the directorial debut Karen Maine, and stars Natalia Dyer from Stranger Things, in the lead role. Developed from a short film that Maine planned on directing but later adapted it to feature-length, this is an extremely small film, in terms of budget, story, and even the run-time. Clocking at only about one hour and fifteen minutes, the film is an almost semi-autobiographical retelling of Maine’s first-hand experience of spending four days at a Catholic retreat.

Alice, played by Natalia Dyer, has been brought up in a very small town by her conservative religious parents and attends Catholic school, where sex-ed classes are taken by a priest. Not only is sex before marriage a sin, but also masturbation, and Alice is made to believe that she will go to hell if she even gets turned on by sex scenes in movies or hot boys in the class. Alice, like most girls her age, is pretty gullible and believes that she is actually committing sins by feeling emotions normal to any teenager. Set in the early 2000s, Alice experiences her sexual interaction over an online AOL chatroom, where she responds to a random dude’s creepy messages just because of curiosity and discovers masturbation. But then she is ashamed of herself and never talks about it to anyone.

At school, someone has spread a rumor about how she performed a very particular sexual activity with a guy from her class at a party, a sexual activity she that she doesn’t even know the meaning of. She asks her friend, but she has no clue either, and Alice spends a chunk of the film trying to find out what people are talking about her. But whatever it is, in order o get these accusations of her and compensate for her supposed dirty mind, she goes to a Christian retreat for four days. And this place is a straight-up horror mansion imo. Right from the beginning, with the overly friendly and enthusiastic attitude of everyone, something is definitely off about this place. Maybe it’s just my socially awkward self, but everything in the retreat is almost Get Out level creepy.

Yes, God, Yes, is a movie about masturbation and sexual awakening, but what separates it from other films of this genre is its female protagonist and conservative setting. It is not a raunchy comedy about horny guys trying to lose virginity, it is just a realistic portrayal of a girl coming to terms with her own sexuality. Maine sure finds funny moments throughout the story, but she never loses sight of realism in the central story, she rather uses the comedic moments to further develop Alice’s character and illustrate her struggles.

The teachers and elders in the story are used for jokes, but they are not the butt of jokes, they are all very misguided people themselves. If anything is joke it is religion and a society that expects young to suppress all their sexual urges, even though they know it is unrealistic. The guilt of always feeling like she’s committed a sin fills Alice with self-doubt that almost drives her crazy as she slowly starts to find out that people are doing those same things in hiding. She feels conflicted and doesn’t understand what she wants to do anymore and then she meets an old lesbian biker lady in a pub, who was once in a Catholic school too, which gives Alice a new perspective on the world. She understands that human beings are complex creatures, and it makes no sense to define them entirely by the supposed “sins” they commit. She understands that High School isn’t the end of the world, and it doesn’t matter what people are talking about behind your back, because those same people are doing equally fucked up shit when nobody is watching. She learns to give herself a chance – to finally figure out who she is.

Natalia Dyer gives the best performance of her career as Alice. So much of the movie depends on her, and she sells every moment she’s in. The rest of the cast is equally good. Wolfgang Novogratz as the lovable hunk is very charming and Timothy Simon is perfect as the strict father, a role very similar to his role from Looking for Alaska on Hulu. Karen Maine does an amazing job directing the movie. It’s hard to believe this is her first movie and she almost pulls off a Greta Gerwig, ala Lady Bird. Yes, God, Yes, is a beautiful little film about growing up and one of the best films to release this quarantine. So, if you have an hour and an hour to spare, check out the movie, you might end up reliving some your worst High School memories.

Now available in virtual cinemas and select drive-ins; available on digital and VOD from July 28.

Love, Victor Is The Perfect Spin-off To Love, Simon.

Love, Victor – Trailer (Official) • A Hulu Original

Love, Simon wasn’t the biggest movie that came out in 2018, but it was it’s own little thing and I adored it. And I don’t think I was alone – it was just so damn adorable. From the sweet teen romance to Nick Robinson’s charming performance and the chemistry between the cast that featured the likes of Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Keyinan Lonsdale, Jennifer Garner and more, Greg Berlanti pulled of one of the sweetest films to come out in recent history. Based on the book “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda ” by Becky Albertalli, Love, Simon told the story of Simon, a closeted high-school student who starts chatting with a stranger on the internet and falls in love, but when his secret is threatened to be revealed, it sets him on journey to accept himself for who he is. It might not be the most innovative plot out there, but for big budget studio teen drama to have gay romance at the center and make big bucks at the box-office, is monumental in and of itself.

But if there was one major complaint about Love, Simon that a lot of people had, it was how the film really underplayed the struggles gay teens have to go through and instead focused the Greg Berlantis of the world, who had it “easy” because they had rich and liberal friends and family, and told a glossy version if the coming out tale. Well, the producers and creators at Fox heard your complaints and they are back with Love, Victor streaming on hulu right now.

Love, Victor is the perfect expansion for the story told in the first film. Michael Cimino leads the cast as Victor, a closeted homosexual teen from a small town in Texas with conservative Latin parents, who moves to a big city and starts to going to a new school Creekwood High, where he learns all about the legend of Simon Spier. Needless to say he feels immensely feels jealous of Simon for having ‘the most supportive parents ever’, and he reaches out to him on Instagram, telling to screw himself, because some people don’t have it as easy as him. But to his surprise Simon actually replies to his message, and begins an exchange of text between them as Simon guides Victor to realize to he is and what he wants. It is great storytelling device and helps connect the film with the series.

The series beautifully recaptures the sweetness of the original movie, and develops it’s themes further, courtesy of the extra run-time. Love, Victor gets the chance to flesh out characters like Victor’s parents, siblings and friends by devoting special scenes to them and their story-line throughout the entire show. And they don’t feel like filler subplots that are used to increase the run-time, in some cases I found the sub-plots to be even more interesting that the original story line involving Victor.

That’s mainly due to the writing of the show, which is flawless for the most part. There are some dialogues here and there and doesn’t feel as natural as it should, it feels like some old/ middle-aged person wrote what they think a young person might say in a particular situation – especially the pop culture references. But apart from that the writing is pretty solid, and in some cases the story really went places I didn’t expect it to.

Michael Cicimo is the perfect casting choice for the lead as he steals every scene he is in with his charisma, and his big endearing eyes makes you instantly feel for Victor. Rachel Naomi Hilson is another standout, her character Mia is given some of the most interesting things to do in the story and she does a great job playing them. But my personal favorite is Anthony Turpel as the over-excited neighbour Felix, whose relationship with Bebe Wood’s bubbly Lake, makes for some of the best moments on the show. The cast overall is pretty good and everybody is given some depth or something to do in the course of the entire show, like even the high school jock/bully played by Mason Gooding, has more to do than I initially expected. There are some really cool cameos in the series too, which I won’t spoil for you, but the they really do a good job with them.

Above everything else Love, Victor shows you how being gay doesn’t mean one thing and how the gay community, like every other community, is a multi-faceted community with a diverse group of people, each with their own struggles and hardships. Like the original film, this show aims to break many stereotypes about the experience of gay teens and break new ground in terms of representation, which I think it achieves. This show will surely inspire many teens around the globe to come out and accept themselves for who they are. And in my opinion, this show is a really big advocate for how the LGBT+ community is one of the most loving and accepting family one can hope to have. It is too early to compare the show with the movie, but I adored Love, Victor as much as I adored Love, Simon (which is a big achievement on the show’ s part).

So if you are a fan of the original movie or you’re looking to some way to kill time on the weekend, I’d suggest you to give Love, Victor on hulu a try.

And if you’ve already seen the show, do let me know what you thought about it in the comments below.

How The Half of It defies Its Genre CONVENTIONS

Ellie Chu tells the audience right up in the opening sequence of the film – “This is not a love story”, à la the narrator in ‘500 Days of Summer’. And just like ‘500 Days of Summer’, ‘The Half of it’ subverts all genre conventions and tropes that people have come to expect, while still being a part of it and playing by its rules. It takes the very familiar story (one that’s been told over and over again, especially in the recent string of teen movies from Netflix), and just decides give the story realistic conclusions. And in doing so, it becomes something more than the genre sets it out to be, and the movies breaks free to greatness just like it’s protagonist.

The Half of It Official Trailer from Netflix.

I’m gonna be honest here, I’m not a fan of these Teen/High School movies from Netflix; most times they are just too cliched and suck real bad. And while ‘The Half of It’ has a really cliched plot, the executions and certain choices made in the production help it rise above it’s peers. The story begins with our lead protagonist Ellie Chu, an immigrant from China living alone with her father since her mom’s demise, as she explains us the concept soulmates to us using Greek mythology. “According to Greek mythologyhumans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.” she says, showing her search for that fairy tale concept of love. But Ellie isn’t bothered much about that, she spends her time learning and writing papers for other students in exchange of money, so she can go to college even if it’s not her dream school. To spice up her boring life, one day High school jock Paul approaches her to write letters popular high school beauty Aster, so that he can woo. You have seen any movie in this genre over the last few decades, you know what’s gonna happen next. Naturally Ellie falls for Aster as they exchange letters and feels like she has finally found her other half who understands hers.

The friendship between Ellie and Paul is without a doubt the best aspect of The Half of It.

But here the film decides to take things a little different and turns itself into a complex and nuanced tale. First of all, yes it’s a story of a lesbian Chinese immigrant and that is a huge thing in itself. But just having a progressive character in your film doesn’t make it groundbreaking or good for that matter, it’s what you do with those characters that matters. This story could easily turn into the ‘gay best-friend’ trope popular in so many rom-coms, but instead what develops is really nuanced and probably one of movie friendships in recent memory. The chemistry between Leah Lewis and Daniel Diemer is off the charts and the cute moments they share together were the highlights in film for me. And while Ellie is falling hard for Aster, Paul starts developing feelings for Ellie being unaware of the situation. Now this is the part of the story that could really go wrong by becoming very awkward or cheesy. But not The Half of it, rather it gives the decisions of it’s character real world repercussions which help them grow. Like Ellie Ellie says in another of her voice-overs, “no one will get what they want in the ensuing story. But they will get what they need.

The Half Of It – Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer, Collin Chou – Photo Credit: Netflix / KC Bailey Movie Review

That is not say that The Half of it does a perfect job of rising above it’s genre, it gives up to it in certain places, like in a “standing up and shouting out their feelings” scene in the third act. And while it doesn’t resolve in the conventional way, it still uses those devices to tell the story. It definitely breaks out and stand above others in the genre, but still it ain’t no 500 days of Summer. But hey, saying that it is not as good as one of the best movies of this century is not really a criticism. And considering how many rules this movies breaks, from story telling plot devices to real life issues like teenage sexuality, Asian culture and even a subtle dab at religion. But again, I have seen a lot of articles praise the movie just for being progressive and said how it criticized religious people, but reading was quite different, I didn’t feel like it was undermining religious people at all, if anything it made understand why they believe what they believe in. And that’s the thing, this movie takes each of its characters seriously and gives them layer – saying that this movie is trying to show down upon any community only undermines the things it tries to speak for.

Ellie kissing goodbye to Aster in The Half of It.

Alice Wu does an excellent job in directing the movies, she adds just enough quirk and innovative techniques to make it all seem special. This is only her sophomore film and her last film was fifteen years back. I don’t know if it’s for any personal reason, but if it is because she wasn’t getting any work, that’d be a huge bummer because boy does she direct this film. Leah Lewis nails the lead role and surely expecting to see more for from her. The overall cast is really good too, not much bad stuff to say here. And yeah, the score – it is just beautiful and a lot more emotion to the story. I’m definitely gonna listen to that score over and over.

 “Love is messy, and horrible, and selfish, and … bold.”

So overall The Half of It is one of the rare teenage dramas on Netflix that’s funny and heart touching forever. Scenes like when Ellie’s dad speak about his wife’s demise for the first time or when Paul runs after Ellie on the train are gonna stay with you for a long time. And just like Tom in 500 days of Summer, when Ellie learns what love really means and we reach the heartbreak point in the story, you feel like you grow up with her. And then when she leaves her home for a successful career, you feel that change in you as you see Paul and Ellie struggle saying goodbye to each other. So, while it isn’t a love story, it is definitely one of the sweetest friendship, and that should be enough reason for you to give it a watch,

Paul running after Ellie’s train in the Half of it.

The Half of it is now streaming on Netflix. Big recommendation.