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Yes Review

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She (Allen) is an American woman of Northern Irish origin in a loveless marriage with an English politician (Neill); He (Abkarian) is Lebanese. They embark on an affair, but can their relationship survive the cultural forces that conspire to tear them apart?

★★★★★

Sally Potter has always been a bit of an acquired taste, her compulsion to experiment tending to impress and off-put in equal measure. After a disastrous dip in the mainstream with 2000’s The Man Who Cried, Yes represents something of a return to form. Certainly, she’s back to her unconventional old self, penning the dialogue for this intriguing response to 9/11 almost entirely in verse — a risky ploy which thankfully pays off, allowing her characters to deliver lines that would sound wildly overdone in normal prose.

The themes of Yes are weighty matters of cultural politics and sexual etiquette, and lead actress Joan Allen bears the burden admirably. Allen is one of the best actresses around, but her turn here, as a scientist whose sterile world crumbles when she falls for Simon Abkarian’s charismatic doctor-turned-cook, is stunning even by her standards. She’s matched every step of the way by Abkarian in his first significant Western role; their scenes are sometimes filthy, sometimes funny, but always involving.

Unfortunately, not all of the film is so consistent. The subplots concerning Allen’s family and friends lack vitality, but the real false notes are struck by Potter’s shaky, slo-mo-infected over-direction. Yes didn’t need such trickery — she should have had more faith in her excellent actors and superb script.

Flawed but very original, Yes is bolstered by its effective dialogue technique and strong performances.