Movie Review You Can Live Forever (2023)

A tender and compassionate debut from writer/directors Mark Slutsky and Sarah Watts, the latter of whom grew up gay in a Jehovah’s Witness community, “You Can Live Forever” lets the romantic tension between its leads build slowly and naturally. , in furtive glances. and little touches. As Jaime and Marike spin in circles, simultaneously excited and agonized by each other’s company, this ’90s-set film lingers on the uncertainty of first love and the nervous wonder of queer longing.

Slutsky and Watts are equally interested in what happens after Marike one night follows a prayer with a passionate kiss, and once she and Jaime embark on a forbidden affair behind closed doors (or inside the bathrooms). from the movie theater, so to speak). That the elders of the community stopped the relationship is understood from the beginning. Even Marike’s suspicious older sister (Deragh Campbell) must be avoided. But “You Can Live Forever” finds its most potent distillation of the conflict between love and faith in Marike herself, who fervently believes, like the other Witnesses, that Armageddon is imminent and, unlike the other Witnesses, that the long-promised “new system of things” will allow her and James to be together, forever. What if Jaime doesn’t share her beliefs? Marike then replies, “I can believe enough for both of us.”

Viewing devotion, whether to a person or a higher power, as a form of resistance born of blind faith, “You Can Live Forever” is careful not to criticize its characters for their honest convictions. He is empathetic even in the way he treats the authority figures in the community, who are polite and at times unkind, but always act from a place of faith. This approach, in turn, sharpens the real criticisms of the film: closed-mindedness, cultures of fear and isolation, and the danger that indoctrination poses to young people who are still developing their sense of identity.

Few movies have been made about Jehovah’s Witnesses; even fewer have seriously committed to the strict insularity of their belief system, though that has begun to change in recent years. Dea Kulumbegashvili’s “Principle” and Daniel Kokotajlo’s “Apostasy” explored the consequences of patriarchal submission for women in faith. Richard Eyre’s “The Children Act” criticized his religious opposition to blood transfusions. In its understated, unassuming guise, “You Can Live Forever” offers a highly nuanced portrayal of the sect’s members, sympathizing with those born into the religion, accepting those who have embraced it as adults, and implying its cloistered, authoritative restriction. all the time. same.