“When we look closer we see everything is chemistry.”
Yes is about aspects of life that are invisible unless we look closer. It is about feeling invisible and trying to make life more colourful.
Sally Potter, the writer and director of Yes, uses age-old Shakespearian techniques and beautiful cinematography to deal with many complex, modern themes.
The entire script is written in iambic pentameter, a poetic device that carries the film at a constant, insistent pace. Every word uttered is in time and follows the previous phrase meaningfully. Although the audience must sift through the poetic words, overall the technique worked well. Words are passed from character to character, to keep in time, and occasionally from internal thought to external voice.
The main character, played by Joan Allen, is an Irish-American scientist who spends her days thinking about tiny, microscopic cells. She embarks on a passionate, fast-paced affair with a chef from Beirut that begins as any steamy affair does. They meet at a dinner party and she passes him her card. Their first rendezvous is at his house, after a stroll under cherry blossom trees, where they instantly succumb to their desires. He talks of one sun, one moon, and tells her she is the only one for him.
But their relationship changes pace. Real life steps in and their cultural differences start to get in the way. An argument at work, based on race and religion, drives him to see her as an enemy, as part of the culture he fought against. He tells her that they can’t be together, that her skin is too pale. “I have learned to rhyme in your language,” he tells her. “Have you learned a word of mine?”
“Here where even to pronounce my name is an impossibility…In your land I am invisible.”
When the film begins, we meet the main character’s cleaning lady, played by Shirley Henderson. She is a character that is never noticed by her employers, but she notices everything they do and knows all their secrets. She speaks directly to the audience, explaining all that she sees and is a relief from the intense lives of the lovers. She describes herself as a cosmetic artist or a dust consultant.
She tells us about the germs that are all around us, germs we can’t see and can’t clean away. “God gave us eyes that don’t see too far or we’d go mad.”
Comic relief is provided by the chef’s co-workers in the kitchen. Their humourous banter proves the iambic pentameter use brilliant. The kitchen scene brings together extremely different characters, like a born-again Christian man from Jamaica and an old Irish man, with very different verbal mannerisms. Yet the same poetic pace is upheld as they tell stories, discuss women and share their life views.
Yes manages to cram in many complex themes, from race and religion to love and death, and it manages it very smoothly. It is artful and stylish. In the end the cleaning lady ties it all together: “When you look closer, nothing goes away; it changes, you see? And in the end, it simply isn’t worth it to clean your life away; you can’t.”