When I heard of the film YES, about the love affair,
between an Arab man and an Irish-American woman who’s fair,
it had all kinds of promise, not only politically,
(--an Anglo and Arab viewing each other uncritically!)
but held promise for romantic sparks.
I imagined a man, all gorgeous and dark,
who through intellect, charm and the ability to kiss
would woo her, so she couldn’t resist.
He’d win over Joan Allen’s “She” and we’d all be hooked
but instead, a few cheesy lines were all it took.
And instead of being the heartthrob I’d hoped for
to represent the Arab hottie in this amour,
he was likeable and kinda sweet,
but I needed more to be swept off my feet.
The actor Simon Abkarian, though, must be smart,
Because it was his first English language work in film arts.
But, more debonair Arab men I met at my university,
surely different casting could have fulfilled my fantasy.
Yes, He certainly knew how to do her good,
He thought that’s what restaurants are meant for, not food.
He spoke poignantly about his life in Beirut,
about terror and trauma, and sensuous fruit;
about cross-cultural relations from which Arabs are banned
because of Western bigotry, in full bloom in this land;
in America our ignorance of Arab culture is considerable
because unless he’s a terrorist, he’s invisible.
Writer-director Sally Potter nails accurate observations, it’s true
but, she tries too hard, and it turns into a confusing stew.
She tries to say too much and my head began to hurt,
about bigotry, marriage, men, body-image, God, class, and dirt.
The husband, played by Sam Neill, blandly and flat,
is a caricature of a rich, boring self-centered rat.
Why did She ever go for him, anyway?
There’s never a clue that gives it away.
The housekeeper is someone who deserves mention.
Too bad she has to recite stilted lines of Potter’s invention,
that try to be cutesy and at the same time profound and ironic.
It’s a turnoff, and at times even comes off as moronic.
Scottish actress Shirley Henderson plays
the peculiar spying housekeeper who, during the days,
waxes philosophical about the dirt around her.
But you probably don’t even know her moniker.
She is brilliant as Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter tomes
and as Jude, one of the very funny friends in the Diaries of Bridget Jones.
Sally squanders Henderson’s talent unlike Bridget and Harry;
Henderson is quirky and funny and, great roles she will carry.
The only names for the leads are “He” and “She”
which is odd, but, there is more strangeness, you see.
Though Ms. Allen turns in a lovely acting presentation,
as did co-lead, French-Armenian (not Arab!) actor, Abkariam.
Their top-notch acting didn’t allay the fact
of how embarrassing it must have been to act,
in this film -- the whole darn thing in verse.
I really can’t think of anything worse.
In fact, the dead aunt, Sheila Hancock, was the only one who could,
make all that rhyming sound very good.
For some reason, not all that clear to me
the aunt’s lines were exceptional -- consistently.
The Irish Aunt’s death symbolizes the role that change plays,
and, that impermanence is the only thing that never goes away.
For the risk-taking, Sally Potter deserves credit,
but it doesn’t work and she should forget it.
With more wisdom Potter would have stored
the iambic pentameter thing on the cutting room floor.
The camera-work is notably interesting
and artistically expresses a wide range of feelings.
But superior acting, camerawork, ideas and diddling,
don’t ameliorate the fact that rhyming couplets are annoying.
With YES, Potter was no doubt undertaking,
to be insightful and weighty, but it was simply irritating.
So, when you’re tempted to see YES at the picture show,
please think twice and just say “No”!
For Movie Magazine, this is Joan Widdifield;
now to my esteemed colleagues I will yield. ©
Air date: 7/6/05
© 2005 - Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D - Air Date: 7/6/05
With Joan Allen.