ICFF ’15: ‘Just Say Yes’ reminds us to appreciate our freedom to love

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We’re lucky here in Canada because we are allowed to marry whomever we love regardless of their gender. Obviously this isn’t (yet) the norm for other countries and one country that refuses to budge from the outdated concept of what constitutes a marriage is Italy. Just Say Yes (Lei Disse Si) is a documentary about two Italian women who decide to get married and the people who surround and support them.

It’s a very simple concept and an equally simple movie (and short, too at only 67 minutes long!) which reveals the realities of homosexual relationships and illustrates how they’re not at all different than heterosexual relationships save for the anatomy. As a Canadian watching the film, it seemed dull and uncreative because the concept of homosexuality and homosexual relations being an oddity is so bizarre to me; I’ve never seen homosexual relationships as any different than heterosexual ones, so many of the emotional strings this movie meant to strum didn’t work as well for me. However, watching the movie with the mindset of one of the people who oppose gay marriage makes you see just how effective it can be.

Just Say Yes (Lei Disse Si) tells the story of Lorenza and Ingrid who have been in a relationship for years and have finally decided to make it legal. Unfortunately, Italy doesn’t allow same-sex marriage, so the couple decide to head to Sweden from where Ingrid also has a citizenship and thus can legally marry and live there with her spouse. The film begins with Lorenza surprising her family and friends with the news of her nuptials and it’s heart-warming to see how excited and supportive they are of the news. They are as ecstatic as she and Ingrid are and the joy is overwhelming.

Lorenza explains how she came out to her family and says the only one who was upset by the news was her sister and that was only because she was afraid that Lorenza would suffer at the hands of their motherland’s bigotry and homophobia. Her parents, though surprised, took to it sooner than expected and Lorenza recalled her mother telling her that the happiness of one’s child is more important than anything else.

In contrast, we find out that none of Ingrid’s immediate blood relatives will be coming. They had disowned her when her brother outed her years go and she had lost all touch with them. She emphasizes the fact that, despite inevitably thinking about her family more than usual as her wedding day nears, she is not sad that they aren’t there to enjoy it with her. It’s their loss, she states, and happily describes how it’s her friends — the ones who she chooses to be with and who accept her as she is — who are her new family and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s interesting to show these two polarities because it shows not only how much it hurts to be abandoned by your kin, but alternately how absolutely beautiful and enlightening it can be when they accept you. It shows that neither is better than the other because there will always be people around to accept you.

Along the way, Lorenza and Ingrid alternately narrate to the camera their deepest emotions and in one such retelling, Lorenza emphatically expresses how much more free and accepted she feels in Sweden where she doesn’t have to hide her homosexuality. She contrasts it to her life in Italy where she is perpetually cautious when she meets strangers and either tells them she is unattached or is deceivingly discreet about the information she does give. Later on, though, she does admit that though Sweden is beautiful — both physically and socially — her roots are in Italy and she is not ready to leave her beloved home country. It’s heartbreaking watching this scene because it’s one of the rare moments when we see that Lorenza is literally making the decision between the love of her life and her happiness, and the very root of what made her who she is.

The movie is nothing more than a love story, but at its core it’s a silent commentary on the people of the world who think that there’s something unnatural or wrong about homosexuality. Almost everyone who attends Lorenza and Ingrid’s wedding and talks to the documentary crew has, essentially, the same wish: that their children will never have to worry about whether or not they can marry the one they love.

The most interesting person to wax philosophical was the designer of the women’s wedding dresses. She talked about how beautiful it was seeing the two wed despite the fact that she herself was against marriage. She thinks it’s outdated and unnecessary and she makes a good point when she says that she doesn’t like how same-sex marriage is seen more as something to do to fit in and be “normal” than as a fight for civil rights. She says she is all for gay marriage to make a political statement, but hates how even homosexual weddings end up heavily mimicking traditional heterosexual weddings. It’s a crucial point as it’s the only form of criticism we see in the film and even then it’s more a thinking point than anything else. There’s no negativity in it, but more like something to ponder.

Just Say Yes (Lei Disse Si) probably won’t impress you much if you’ve been raised with with a liberal point of view as it doesn’t reveal anything that you didn’t already know. But watch it for the reminder that love comes in all shapes and forms and that there are still people— women—in the world who cannot do what they want even though it effects nobody else. Watch it also for the knowledge that even though progress seems to be made at a snail’s pace, that we are moving forward, little by little.

B+

Just Say Yes (Lei Disse Si) screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on June 14 @ 3:30pm.

Sarah is covering the Italian Contemporary Film Festival which runs in Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City from June 11-19. For more festival coverage, click here!

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