TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! High school student Jaime (Anwen O’Driscoll) has a lot on her plate at the beginning of You Can Live Forever. Her father has suddenly died of a heart attack, and her distraught mother has sent Jamie to live with family members. These family members are devoutly religious Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Jaime is discovering she is a lesbian. To make matters worse, she’s forced to attend religious meetings at the Kingdom Hall (the JW version of Church), where she befriends Marike (June Laporte). The two develop a close relationship that causes more than a few problems within the close-knit congregation, forcing things into a major conflict.
Jaime’s older sister Beth (Liane Balaban) welcomes her into the home. Beth’s husband, Jean-Francois (Antoine Yared), is an aspiring congregation leader, often leaving the house chores to the females as he diligently studies the word of God. Beth is immediately enrolled into the local high school and makes friends with a young man by the name of Nathan (Hasani Freeman). Back on the forced-religion front, Marike and Beth grow to be close friends and more. Marike’s goal is to bring Beth fully into the religion so that she might live on into what the Witnesses believe will be the New System of things. There, death will be no more, and humans will live in Paradise Earth forever. Beth is reeling from family tragedy while Marike is navigating her own forbidden orientation within the strict regulations of a religion that promises ultimate resolution.
“Beth is reeling from family tragedy while Marike is navigating her own forbidden orientation…”
Written and directed by Mark Slutsky and Sarah Watts, this 1990s period drama is a meditation on the circumstances we are handed and the paths we choose to take. You Can Live Forever is a rather subtle yet worthwhile exploration of two people at a crucial moment in their lives who cross paths amidst untenable circumstances. O’Driscoll does a wonderful job as the confused teen dealing with tragedy and navigating a complicated romance. I would also say that Freeman is exceptional as Nathan. He acts as a calm, uninvolved voice of reason in a world of absurdity. I also have to note Laporte’s turn as the born-in JW who knows only one way of life while trying to find other options. This is some deep, sorrowful work, and it is impressive.
You Can Live Forever has a tremendous amount of work to do in educating the casual viewer on the complexities of the strict lifestyle lived by the average Jehovah’s Witness while still delivering a compelling drama. For the most part, the script chooses to offer the stakes and details in a surreptitious manner so that the narrative stays afloat. This works fairly well, yet there is a lot to get through, and the methodical pace of the film could try patience. A bit of levity would have really helped here and there. The script also goes to great lengths to present the difficulties posed by the religion without damning its adherents. If you are patient, however, the film lands the story of two young people fumbling through the circumstances they are in.
You Can Live Forever screened at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival.
"…this is some deep, sorrowful work..."