It's the story that's starting to become quite over-used recently. East meets West, religious meets atheist, white meets brown, in the form of lovers drawn to each other by strong, physical attraction. Sally Potter has to make this cliched scenario damn good and very unique for it to produce anything memorable. She starts off by perfectly casting Joan Allen as 'She', the fragile, ethereal beauty- a successful career woman trapped in a dead marriage to an unfaithful husband. Even better is her choice of 'He', played by Simon Akabarian, a dark-featured handsome who is excellent in his portrayal of the passionate, intelligent, and spiritual Middle Eastern man. Sally Potter wrote and directed this love story brilliantly, highlighting how such people come together- drawn to each other by the mystery of their differences, and yet (as with the cliche punch-line of this type of story) discovering they are essentially looking for the same things and start seeking them in each other. Potter however, saves this from just being another soppy love story shot artistically, by creating a dialogue made up mostly of iambic pentameter (think Shakespeare meets Eminem). So powerfully written, the beauty of the script really is the gem in this film, making it pleasant not only to watch but to hear...
So why the disappointment? The love story central to this film brings to light many themes: identity, race, religion, sexuality, and spirituality and deals with the themes aptly by the power of the writing and its unique style. But then comes the painfully and ridiculously long monologue of She's aunt which rambles on about politics and death. Every now and then, the amusing (but slightly irritating) cleaner pops up (likened, by other reviews I've read, to a Greek chorus in a play) as she speaks directly to the camera in monologues suggesting themes of shame, secrets, and hidden desires. And of course random shots of Sam Neill (playing She's husband) listening and air guitaring to some kind of loud blues music (BB King, I think?!). All these scenes seemed to break the beautiful flow of this film, adding too much to an already intense film brimming with thought, and making it seem disjointed in terms of the content and themes it's trying to portray, and generally distracting from the main plot. The story of He and She is quite a lot to grasp on its own, with both those characters well-developed and presented whereas some of the other characters (the god-daughter, the Aunt, possibly even the cleaner) seemed unnecessary.
'Yes' started out well and at it's core, is a great film, a great love story, and great film-making. But somewhere along the line, a film got too hectic and started cramming in a 1001 ideas on life, society, and the world.
Watch it, fall in love with the story and struggle of She and He as they fall in love, but let the peripheral stories and characters pass you by in a forgettable blur.