By Zoe Talbot
Allison Torres (Jennifer Garner) was the queen of saying “yes” to every opportunity and a lover of adventure. Her husband Carlos (Edgar Ramírez) matched her carpe diem attitude, and they took every risk together.
Nothing helps someone master the “no” like becoming a parent, and having three kids makes the pair less than enthusiastic about new things. Together, the family must learn to have fun again by having a “Yes Day,” in which the parents say yes to almost everything their kids ask for twenty-four hours.
The first thing that I will say about this film is that it is undeniably fun. The Torres children, Katie (Jenna Ortega), Nando (Julian Lerner) and Ellie (Everly Carganilla), are full of life, and they make this family feel so authentic. Far too often, I feel like children in family movies are stereotyped or exaggerated for humor, and “Yes Day” pleasantly surprised me. Nando loves science experiments and Katie wants to go to concerts without her overbearing mother, but their characters have dimensions beyond that, and it makes them so loveable. Despite their big asks for Yes Day and the crazy nature of their adventures, their antics felt so natural to me as a day where children do what they want, and I even found myself audibly laughing at times.
The interesting thing about watching this film as a college student is being right in the middle of who this film is intended for: children and parents. I found myself able to understand the complexity of the Torres parents’ conflicts, while also empathizing with the eleven year old for wanting to order forty dollars worth of ice cream for breakfast.
I found myself wondering what I would do with a Yes Day as a child, and I couldn’t remember the last time my family did something together like that due to the pandemic, work, college or some other excuse. Part of the film’s charm is how it makes you subtly reflect, as I’m sure many children and parents will after watching (while maybe even doing their own Yes Day).
The movie is heartwarming even in its ridiculousness. In a particular scene, Allison is maniacally throwing bananas in hopes of winning a stuffed gorilla for Katie; while it’s amusing to watch Garner enthusiastically and angrily play a theme park game, it’s also sort of heartbreaking to consider that she does it to win back the love of her teenage daughter. Allison is the mother who wants her kids to learn who she truly is and who she can grow to be, and Carlos has to learn to be her partner and be the bad guy to his kids sometimes.
There’s also something endearing as the children learn the value of “no,” and try to conquer their Yes Day without their parents’ supervision; they come to appreciate what their parents mean by their strictness, and while I’m sure a lot of other children’s desires are smaller than the Torres’ family, I’m sure parents and children alike will come to enjoy and sympathize with the token happy ending as well.
“Yes Day” is silly, fun and sweet, but it isn’t anything particularly new or something that blew me away cinematically. For a simple and sweet movie to watch at dinner, it is perfect. I think that it passes the time, and I enjoyed it for what it was, but I think overall I found it forgettable because I do not have to think about being held back by parents or keeping my kids out of trouble.
Being able to turn my brain off for an hour and enjoy Ramírez and Garner’s whimsical performance was enjoyable, just nothing award-winning compared to anything else I have seen lately. The movie is based on the children’s book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld, so I’m not sure what rings true to the source material, but I think that the film does a great job for what it is: a movie for families to watch together, laugh together and be together.
Overall, I applaud the film for its sweet and simple message: let parents parent sometimes, but let children explore their big dreams. I think that very often people are concerned about being right that they forget to consider other things, especially when you’re little or caring for other human beings. Watching these parents find themselves again and watching the Torres family come together as a unit is super lovable and heartwarming.