“Maybe there isn’t a design”, the cleaner examines to her audience, but then maybe there is. Maybe there’s a god and this is all a large plan, but maybe there isn’t and this all just random, then what of our existence and how we can leaves traces of ourselves long after we’ve died? “It doesn’t end when we’ve died”, the cleaner declares. Shirley Henderson gives a fascinating performance as “the cleaner” an entity who hovers around everyone in their household and cleans and wipes up after them and could very well be a ghost because she’s just a watcher.
The cleaner, one of the only interesting characters in “Yes”, stands as more of a conscientious observer rather than a character. Someone who takes delight in watching the madness unfold around her, and fills the audience in on what these people are doing and why they, we, everyone feels the need to do so. Are romance, lurid love affairs, and our relationships all just random clashing of individuals, or is there a plan? The Cleaner observes this through molecules in the opening. The molecules, dust, dirt, and semen left by us are traces of us, and the characters are more of a microcosm for the question of a god, or plan, the evidence we leave long after we’ve died, and how our existence plays more importance than we can realize, even during a selfish affair.
I’m sure that the audience for “Yes” will ultimately be split down the middle in reaction to what they’ve seen. Some may find this to be one of the most original, and brilliant films ever made, while others may think it to be a pompous, pretentious and condescending mess. I’m in the latter crowd. In this corner, “Yes” is quite possibly one of the more pretentious and smug foreign independent films I’ve seen in a while, and though it’s not an awful film, it sure is a vapid quasi-intellectual dry hump.
Potter’s film is an exercise not only in a routine plot as the put upon wife engaging in an affair with a sexy man which tears her family apart while her daughter (The yummy Stephanie Leonidas) grieves an ending relationship, and the husband (Sam Neill is completely wasted) comes to grips with his wife’s infidelity, but in a writer’s ability to show its audience how condescending they can be by repeatedly reminding us: “You’re not watching any movie, you’re watching the movie”; this is done through soft whispers of dialogue, and its narrator constantly acknowledging the camera. See, the entirety of Potter’s film is spoken in an often melodramatic gimmick that I found incredibly distracting. Potter relies on a consistent routine of having each and every one of her characters speak in iambic pentameter.
The gimmick in which is often rather pretentious and cheesy for a movie that’s basically another take on “Unfaithful”. Each and every character on-screen looks far off into space and speaks in low whispers and monologuing every other minute, and when they’re not doing that they throw dialogue at each other in verse. Potter goes the extra mile and has her characters rhyme, which they do all the time, it’s not an interesting device, much too self-congratulatory to be nice, they talk in rhythms back and forth like a song, at only over 100 minutes it felt so damn long, the dialogue is nothing but cheesy rhyming, all told in such melodramatic timing, it’s a mediocre attempt at poetry and prose, but it really felt like Potter was thumbing her nose, this is not Shakespeare so I found it quite excruciating, the way she rhymed was just poor imitating.
It’s such a stupid device to differentiate itself from other films, and it’s a vain writing tool that kept me slumped down in my chair groaning. “Yes” is a grating and utterly pompous film with a typical plot, and much talent gone to waste thanks to the practices of a woman intent on making it clear we’re watching a film that’s holier than thou. In spite of some interesting social themes examined through the clever character of “The Cleaner”, thanks to a very good performance by Shirley Henderson, “Yes” is a pretentious and utterly grueling practice in artsy fartsy, that’s never entertaining or as intelligent as it thinks it is. It’s basically a waste of talent set to a rhythm.