Release Date: September 4, 2004 at the Telluride Film Festival (USA)
Original format: 35 mm film
Spoken entirely in verse, Yes is about an Irish-American woman (Joan Allen) who is tired of her loveless marriage (with actor Sam Neill) and begins a passionate affair with a Lebanese man (Simon Abkarian). Set in the present day in the UK, the film follows the two lovers as they face the reality of their relationship – and ultimately their differences – in the larger context of the complicated international climate and the relationship between the West and the East. As the story progresses, Potter highlights the cultural divide between the pair, making the longevity of their intense relationship seem impossible – which is emphasized by an explosive and emotional scene where the two discuss what they as individuals represent to the world. The film exhibits an experimental approach as Potter plays with unique camera angels and film speeds that reinforce the moods she tries to create and showcase the beautifully orchestrated cinematography.
While the movie focuses greatly on the couple, it is clear that the film is an opportunity for Potter to work through her thoughts about the current state of international affairs – as the US enters into war in the Middle East – and human nature. The film touches on a multitude of different issues including lies and misperception, the role of women (as mothers, wives, etc.), female body image, and isolation. In addition, throughout the entire film, Potter creatively uses the role of female cleaners who play the role of the Greek chorus as they observe the story as passive and transparent characters. Specifically, the main woman’s housecleaner (Shirley Henderson) provides an ongoing commentary about the dirt that never disappears but is just moved around.
After traveling the globe to Beirut and Havana, Yes ends on a hopeful, yet surreal, note about the potential to overcome great divides.
- Cultural divides between the West and East (such as religion, money, etc.)
- Forbidden romance/affair
- Post-9/11 world
- Misperception – Lies, miscommunication and “dirt”
- Iambic pentameter
Resources about the film
- Lucia, Cynthia. “Saying ‘Yes’ to Taking Risks: an Interview with Sally Potter.” Cineaste 30 (2005): 24-32.
- Potter, Sally, John Berger, and Pankaj Mishra. Yes: Screenplay and Notes. New York: Newmarket P, 2005.
Resources about post-9/11 film
- Dixon, Wheeler W., ed. Film and Television After 9/11. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2004.
- Rich, B. Ruby. “After the Fall: Cinema Studies Post-9/11.” Cinema Journal 43 (2004): 109-116.