REVIEW: ‘Yes Day’ Brings Much Needed Joy

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Yes Day

I’ve been looking for a heartwarming film that just brings joy to watch right now. Netflix has an answer to my search with its newest original film: Yes Day. The film is directed by Miguel Arteta and adapted to the screen by Justin Malen from Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld‘s book of the same name. In truth, it’s been a while since we’ve gotten a family comedy centered around parents being parents, kids being kids, and touching on the complexities that come with them. The film stars Jennifer Garner and Edgar Ramírez as parents Allison and Carlos Torres, with Jenna Ortega, Julian Lerner, Everly Carganilla, playing their children Katie, Nando, and Kellie, respectively.

In the film, Allison and Carlos were an adventurous couple that said yes to exploring the world and having fun. But, all that changed with kids. Needing to instill structure in their children’s lives, the two have hit the point where they always feel like they have to say “no” to their kids. While this falls harder on Allison, the designated disciplinarian of the family, Carlos’s daytime job of saying “no’ as a lawyer has left him desperate to win his kids’ love and attention—while also making Allison the bad guy.

Now, this dynamic may feel played out, but it’s one I know all too well. My mom took on the role of the “no” parent, and my dad was the one I knew I could receive a “yes” from. And that dynamic stayed well into my adulthood. That said, in Yes Day, the family says “yes” to everything for 24-hours and grows from it.  Carlos understands Allison. Allison understands her kids, and most importantly, the kids learn a lesson on why sometimes you need to say “no.”

The idea of giving their kids a Yes Day comes after a parent-teacher conference when Allison and Carlos realize that their kids are very publically talking about how they don’t let them do anything. The two shrug off the idea until Katie, the pair’s eldest daughter, challenges Allison. After that, the bulk of Yes Day is an adventure through Los Angeles to complete five large tasks that the children have decided on beforehand. With some restrictions, the family takes off on wholesome moments that bring them closer together and embraces the fun. From gigantic ice cream bowls and absurd outfits to a giant water balloon fight, the family bonds easily. They begin to relax around each other, and it’s clear that giving in to the “yes” is healthy.

Well, that is until the third act, when the obligatory lessons come into play. Even while that may sound like Yes Day takes a tonal turn to the boring, it doesn’t. The way that Yes Day drives home a simple “kids, listen to your parents” and “parents, listen to your kids” message is well-executed and is kept vibrant enough to match the rest of the film’s tone. In fact, the film’s ability to adapt a picture book into a cohesive story while not feeling too hamfisted should be commended.

Additionally, the aspect of seeing a mixed Latinx family on-screen without providing cultural stereotypes or overt commentary on identity was something I didn’t realize that I needed. Often, Latinx families are put into positions where they have to deal with trauma like in series like On My Block or the remake of Party of Five—the former focused on life in a gang area, and the latter focussed on children surviving after their parents are deported. While both those series represent an axis of Latinx identity, for once, it’s heartening to see a film showcase a family just being family without all of the trauma that so many non-Latinx define us against.

Yes Day

Plus, to top it all off, the chemistry among the cast is phenomenal. Garner embodies the tough mom so well, and Ramírez plays a docile dad perfectly. The two together are wonderful, playing off of each other’s energy and landing well-timed physical and dialogue-based comedy. But the family is rounded out by the children. While the three young actors hold their own, the most compelling scenes are when the parents get to be one on one with them. The most heartwarming moment that made me think of time with my own dad was in the film’s opening when Carlos drives Ellie to school. The two sing to the radio loudly and in a coordinated fashion that brings out an adorable father-daughter bond.

My one issue with Yes Day is that some of the ways Spanish is worked into the film don’t land well. While Carlos or Katie says small Spanish lines that land, Allison’s more robust lines feel forced. And while that could be because Garner isn’t Latina, which isn’t trying to be in the film, it hits me differently given that I come from a family that spoke Spanglish with one parent never using it at all because he couldn’t speak it.  That said, it’s a small element to a charming movie.

In the end, Yes Day gets a big yes from me. It’s wholesome, joyous, and hits the spot in a pretty dark world. With many more book adaptations slated from Netflix, I hope they all meet this adorable standard.

Yes Day is available exclusively on Netflix on March 12, 2021.

Yes Day
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10
7.5/10

TL;DR

In the end, Yes Day gets a big yes from me. It’s wholesome, joyous, and hits the spot in a pretty dark world. With many more book adaptations slated from Netflix, I hope they all meet this adorable standard.