Warning sign No.1: this is a love story between parties known only as He and She. Writer/director Sally Potter makes a grand claim to universality but Yes is so thickly wrapped in layers of artifice that genuine intimacy is impossible. Although Joan Allen is a riveting presence, her rhyming exchanges with on-screen Lebanese lover Simon Abkarian distract from the real dialogue of intolerance. Both in front and behind the camera, it's a romance hindered by a failure to communicate.
A liberal white-bred American, She likes to think that her Northern Irish roots give her some innate understanding of what religious persecution means. He is a Lebanese surgeon who, after fleeing to London, is reduced to slicing steaks. She is also married to a whiny Englishman (Sam Neill), but the greatest obstacle in their impulsive love affair is more obvious - and painfully so. Using iambic pentameter, He and She speak of the underlying guilt and resentment remaining in the aftermath of 9/11. But while the words sound pretty, the action is less compelling.
"IT JUST FEELS FORCED"
One minute they're twisted in the sheets and the next they're wrestling with politics - sexual and racial. It just feels forced. If a modern take on Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet is the aim, Potter lacks the poetic and dramatic fluency to pull it off. The film certainly has its compelling moments, like a series of soliloquies by Shirley Henderson as a philosophising cleaner. Her commentary gives a haunting resonance to the idea of wrongdoing as a stain that can never be erased. Even so, the memory of this film doesn't linger.