Sally Potter’s film Yes (UK/US, 2004) stages the political possibilities of cosmopolitanism through the aesthetics of a heterosexual love story whose failures reveal the limit points of such a vision. Read psychoanalytically, cosmopolitan aspirations share with love an idealizing drive. In response to Potter’s coupling of cosmopolitanism and love, this article puts their idealizations in critical dialogue, mapping their respective productions of desirable and undesirable subjects.
The article returns to this film in the current context of intensifying violence motivated by a hatred of cultural and religious difference, in which the cosmopolitan questions raised by Potter’s love story have become ever more urgent. Responding to the renewed interest in cosmopolitanism in the cinema and beyond, it argues that the geopolitical situation today warrants renewed discussion of this film’s cosmopolitan ambitions to imagine a passionate intimacy between people despite their conflicted and unequal histories. This reading of the film seeks to illuminate the shared wishful ground of cosmopolitanism and love, thereby questioning some of the most serious limits of this project without abandoning the importance of its ambitions in today’s increasingly demanding political climate.