"She" (Joan Allen) is a London-based scientist (born in Belfast, raised in America) whose open marriage to her stoic, stuffy husband (Sam Neill) is dying a slow, painful death. "He" (Simon Abkarian) is a cook from Beirut, who meets her at a party, beginning a torrid affair that puts both on a physical and emotional trek taking them to Beirut, Belfast, New York, and a groovy Cuba.
It's not a fun trip. I was bored within 30 minutes, utterly confused by 60, and planning my exit at 90. Potter's intricate, rhyming dialogue (iambic pentameter?) is clever at first, a way to make the movie and its topics timeless. As her characters rant on and on, jumping on and off topics like democracy, love, God's existence, parenthood, science, death, and U.S./Middle East relations, any appeal vanishes, as sheer boredom sets in. Not even Neill playing air guitar can lighten things up.
Yes doesn't take a break, which is not good with the tapestry of philosophical and social arguments presented. Potter, who also wrote the script, is relentless in the way the worst political pundits are; she doesn't shut up until all of her points are heard, so there's no time to digest anything that comes your way. The movie plays like a more pretentious version of Mike Nichols' Closer, if that's actually possible, a film so packed with unrealistic, dramatic dialogue you couldn't relate to anything or anyone in it. With Yes, you can't even follow anything. Even the film's sage guide, "She"'s maid (Shirley Henderson), sounds like a confused fortune cookie.
What Potter is trying to accomplish here, I have no idea. My best guess is she wanted to make a love story about the concept of love and how it can be affected by outside forces. The inherent flaw in that plan is that love doesn't involve concepts, but people, people with feelings and thoughts and motivations. Yes doesn't offer that story, though it could: Allen is a great actress, and Abkarian, with his sly smile and brooding undercurrent, is charismatic and edgy when he's not babbling.
No one is saying Potter should buy a Delia Ephron script and start phoning Sandra Bullock's agent. There must be a better way for Potter to get her message -- whatever it is -- across without writing a movie everyone's seen already. Charlie Kaufman did it in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, so it's not impossible. In Yes, Potter fails miserably at her attempt, a jarring, pseudo-intellectual mess that leaves you ostracized, bored, and confused. In other words, say no to Yes.
Allen with audience.
Run time: 100 mins
In Theaters: Friday 5th August 2005
Box Office USA: $0.2M
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 52%
Fresh: 45 Rotten: 41
IMDB: 6.5 / 10
Director: Sally Potter
Screenwriter: Sally Potter