Rhyming review: The verdict on ‘Yes’? No, I guess
August 3, 2005
If Sally Potter wants to shake us,If the director’s intent is to wake us out of our normal wayOf watching films upon the screen,Then her latest, “Yes,” is a triumph from the opening sceneOf a housekeeper (Shirley Henderson) speaking in confidence, directly to the audience,Philosophically, about the nature of her work: Removing the dirt while her employers pretend she can’t be seen.
“Yes” repeats a story so often toldOf husband and wife who have grown not only old togetherBut weary of each other, and so they take on different lovers.The proper English husband (Sam Neill) has already had his affair, we learn,So his wife (Joan Allen) decides it is her turn.When she meets a passionate Beiruti cook (Simon Abkarian), who compliments her on her looks,She takes full flight on a romantic fling.But the relationship quickly begins to sting, as prejudice and politicsMake the cook’s blood boil and his stomach sick.He pushes her away, so she headsTo her beloved aunt (Sheila Hancock), who lies comatose, in a hospital bed.Despite the condition of this dear relation, the two engage in conversationAbout God, desire, Cuba and regret.And when aunty dies, our heroine is determinedTo get on with her life, with her affair.
At this intersection of events and romance, Potter has created a chanceTo look at religion and abortion, heartache and the world situation.Yes, the world of “Yes” is rife with possibility, but Potter doesn’t show the abilityTo exalt this substance over style, at every turn she cranks the dial on gimmickry.She begins this game by letting her characters exist without name; the cook is “He,” the wife is “She.”Dialogue transforms into unspoken thought; housekeepers are often caught looking right into the lens.Invariably words are delivered in rhyme (I assume you’d figure that out in time);The house walls are empty, save for a giant-sized mirror,The effect of these tricks couldn’t be clearer:For all its noble – and semi-successful – ambitions, “Yes” sinks on the weight of its own affectations.What is the conclusion I come to on this,This ungainly piece of artifice?There’s brilliance lying under that difficult veneer, and soIt pains me to note, on “Yes” I must say “no.”
If you must, “Yes” shows at Paepcke Auditorium Sunday and Monday, the 7th and 8th of August.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org