The feelings ‘Yes or No’ evokes are both expected and not. It makes important points about the queer-verse, while giving us small helpings of the toxicity and cringe necessary for romantic comedies. Set in Thailand, it reveals the underlying homophobia of a country that appears accepting on the outside. At the time of it’s 2010 release, it was the first lesbian genre film in Thailand
Kim and Pie meet in college. Pie changes her room and is assigned one with Kim, but immediately wants to change again, because Kim is a ‘tomboy’. In Thai culture (just like in colloquial Indian understanding), a ‘tomboy’ is a woman who presents herself in masculine fashion. She may not necessarily be a lesbian, but is assumed to be one, based on her appearance. Pie’s second room-change request is denied and she begrudgingly accepts Kim as her roommate. Pie is rude, draws a line across their respective space in the room and leaves no opportunity to reiterate her disdain of tomboys.
All of this is taken a bit too nicely by Kim. She is kind to Pie, attempts conversation and even cooks for her. As rom-coms go, Pie starts to warm up to Kim. Their relationship progression is problematic because it puts the onus of being likeable on Kim, who has done nothing wrong, and exempts Pie from the consequences of her terrible behaviour.
Pie comes from a vocally homophobic family with financial and class privilege, that is vocally homophobic, with a college circle that is pretty diverse in terms of sexuality, with a lesbian (her previous roommate) and a gay friend, but her attitude toward Kim betrays Pie’s homophobic conditioning and the absurd belief (that exists in the community too) of ‘looking’ queer (that you have to look a certain way to be valid as this gender and that sexuality). Pie’s behaviour also dispels the myth that money, education and class privilege equal ‘progressive ideals’.
For a community that struggles to be recognised as valid by external actors, more often that not, queer relationships feel the pressure to be portrayed as perfect, in order to increase that claim for validity. ‘Yes or No’ does not conform to this unrealistic expectation and has its own share of toxicity in the form of misunderstandings, jealousy and the subsequent murder of some jellyfish, running away, rejections taken very badly and the inability to stand up to a homophobic mother.
The movie uses a mixture of humour and cringe to lighten the mood, but the real hilarity of the movie is its general and poor opinion of straight men, which is venturing not too far from the truth. ‘Yes or No’ is a classic rom-com that asks all the right questions. Although you may ask yourself ‘Why?’ more than once, ‘Yes or No’ -where the biggest problem is your ex-roommate liking your current roommate, who you are in denial about also liking- is a welcome escape from the nightmare we live in right now. The will-they or won’t-they is consistent throughout the movie, and I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I’m sure you can guess.
‘Yes or No’ is available for streaming on Netflix.