Why you should care
Because a romance that explores big ideas and blossoms via iambic pentameter is bound to be pure poetry.
You say you want a movie that has a lot going on? Then say Yes. In British director Sally Potter’s resplendent, politically charged, post-9/11 romance, everyone speaks in rhyming iambic pentameter. Surely there’s an easier way to dramatize the turbulent affair between a lovelessly married Irish-American molecular biologist and a self-exiled Lebanese surgeon now working as a London cook. But Potter, still best known for casting Tilda Swinton as a sex-shifting 400-year-old nobleman in the 1992 movie of Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando, tends not to take the easy way.
The two stars are deep-feeling, deep-thinking people — who, we may note, first turn each other on with major theological questions.
In Yes, Potter doesn’t name her characters, but she does serve them well by casting Joan Allen and Simon Abkarian, who take full ownership of the very rich material. From the first moments of the lovers’ blossom-wreathed walk-and-talk courtship, the heightened poetry intensifies the exalting experience of getting swept up. It makes poignant sense that the two stars eventually find themselves at a stark crossroads and embroiled in a sort of one-on-one culture war; they’re deep-feeling, deep-thinking people — who, we may note, first turn each other on with major theological questions.
The big ideas at play in Yes may at times seem archly expressed, but perhaps that’s because movies don’t trade in big ideas often enough or because our standards for movie talk are otherwise so easily debased. Although less topical now than when it was released in 2004, the film has aged well simply on account of its singularity. It’s an indulgently cerebral work, and that is the rare beauty of it; the odds are good that you’ve really never seen anything quite like it. Have a look: