Just Say Yes


I saw this odd little movie the other day. I can’t tell you what attracted me to it initially because my Netflix queue has been known to get up over 300 movies and I have a thing about mostly forcing myself to watch them in order (TV shows not withstanding, there’s a whole method to how I order the queue, it’s enough for its own post) so by the time the obscure stuff makes it to the top I often have no blessed clue why I put it on the list in the first place.

Turns out that Yes was written and directed by Sally Potter, the same woman who wrote and directed Orlando. I love Orlando so I’m glad I wound up with this movie no matter how it happened. Not surprisingly I knew nothing about Yes going in. It’s about a woman, Joan Allen, who winds up having an affair with a passionate Middle Eastern man. It’s written in iambic pentameter and shot in a style that incorporates an occasional feeling of security cameras. The two things balance eachother in a surprising way with the structured meter being almost blown open by the random uncontrollable feeling of the security cameras.

Once I figured out that the dialogue was in iambic pentameter I was quickly comfortable in it. Iambic pentameter is, in fact, the meter of natural English language so there’s no reason I shouldn’t be. There’s a sense of humor that’s beautifully punctuated by the poetry as well and secondary characters that lighten the heavy mood of Allen’s character’s life story. You’re grateful for the lightening, too. The story eventually takes sort of a turn to the left and all of a sudden you’re in the middle of a climactic scene that’s preaching about prejudice and war and sustainability and racism and immigration and, while Joan Allen is compelling as usual, you wonder how in the name of fuzzy little puppies you ended up there. Also you’re still about twenty minutes from the end of the movie which is surprising.

It’s a movie that is…wonderful but not good. Does that make sense? It’s ambitious and it does such great things but it doesn’t, finally, work as a whole. for me I call it well worth one’s time, though. As a writer to see someone use meter and rhyme so fully to communicate not only content but emotion and mood is almost a call to arms. It reminds you how important a writing style is and how much one’s style can be in getting one’s point across more thoroughly. I think that songwriters may know this more instinctively than prose writers and the meter is the key. The other great reason to watch is in the bonus features. There are a couple of “making of” choices and one is about finding the location for the climactic scene. It winds up being mostly a short film of rehearsals of the scene in various places. The one that’s important, if you’re interested in making films, is actually not in a location it’s in someone’s office or home and it’s just the two actors and the writer-director sitting at a table reading the scene. Ms. Potter is wildly passionate about the broader themes she sees in this movie. She sees the film as a great and powerful YAWP into the universe meant to bring injustice to light. I was greatly moved to that point by her remarks in rehearsal. Sadly I wasn’t moved anywhere near that by her finished product of a movie.

I’d love for you to see it and let me know if you are, though.


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