The Movie Waffler New Release Review - YOU CAN LIVE FOREVER | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - YOU CAN LIVE FOREVER

New Release Review - YOU CAN LIVE FOREVER
Two lesbian teenagers attempt to keep their relationship secret from their Jehovah's Witness community.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Mark Slutsky, Sarah Watts

Starring: Anwen O'Driscoll, June Laporte, Liane Balaban, Deragh Campbell, Tim Campbell, Antoine Yared, Hasani Freeman

You Can Live Forever poster

It's become a cliché to set your lesbian drama in the past, with movies like Ammonite, Carol, The Handmaiden and Portrait of a Lady on Fire all playing out their tales of taboo love against period backdrops. Setting such stories in the far past adds an immediate extra dash of drama, as two women hooking up in Victorian England or 18th century France is obviously a bigger deal than in the western world of the 21st century.

Writer/directors Mark Slutsky and Sarah Watts have set their lesbian drama, You Can Live Forever, in the past, but in the near past of the early 1990s. You might wonder why this setting is necessary, as the movie is set in a Jehovah's Witness community, where attitudes to homosexuality haven’t exactly evolved in the past three decades. You might also question why this particular community was chosen, as lesbianism was still largely a taboo in mainstream society at the time the film is set.

you can live forever review

With regards to its period setting, You Can Live Forever doesn't so much make you think about what life must have been like for its lesbian protagonists in the early '90s, but rather how they might have spent the years since. When the movie ends you find yourself thinking about all the people who have wasted decades living their lives on somebody else's terms simply because they had the misfortune to have been born at the wrong time. Gay people of older generations must feel particularly cheated as they watch today's teenagers openly live the lives they had to shun at worst or live in secret in best.

Living their lives in secret are You Can Live Forever's young heroines Jaime (Anwen O'Driscoll) and Marike (June Laporte). The two teenagers have very little in common. Jaime is an agnostic from English speaking Canada who goes to stay with her aunt Beth (Liane Balaban) and uncle Jean-Francois (Antoine Yared) in French speaking Quebec while her mother struggles with the recent death of Jaime's father. Beth and Jean-Francois are happy to take in their niece, but while under their roof she must play by their rules. That includes attending meetings of their Jehovah's Witness church, which sees Jaime reluctantly don a frumpy dress.

Things look up for Jaime however when she spots the pretty Marike at the meeting. The two strike up a conversation afterwards and quickly become fast friends, with Jaime spending most nights at Marike's family home. What begins as platonic bed-sharing soon evolves into physical lust as the two girls indulge their mutual attraction whenever away from the disapproving eyes of those around them.

you can live forever review

As for why the movie plays out in a Jehovah's Witness community, well it's because co-director Watts was herself raised in such a setting. This may be key to why the film is so even-handed when it comes to the religion. This isn't a simple "gays good, religion bad" narrative, rather it's a very pragmatic and relatable tale of how compromise is key in relationships. Jaime's cynicism towards religion is countered by Marike's commitment to her faith. Marike understands her church doesn't approve of her sexuality, but she doesn't believe that she has to choose between the two. She handles her lesbianism the way people handle soft drugs, believing she's doing nothing wrong but knowing she has to keep it a secret regardless. When Jaime mocks Marike's beliefs, even those of us who share Jaime's views on religion (which, let's face it, is probably the core audience for a movie like this) can feel the dagger being plunged into Marike's heart.

Queer themed movies often feel like the filmmaker wants to change how conservatives view homosexuality. You Can Live Forever might be the first movie of its kind I've seen that seems to be trying to make liberals reassess how they view people of a religious background. It's a refreshingly open-minded approach in these increasingly binary "you're either with us or against us" times. The film continually confounds our expectations of this sort of drama, with characters we expect to play villainous roles instead showing compassion, even when doing so contradicts their beliefs. We're told Marike's mother left her family because of a clash with their religion. Marike's older sister Amanda (Deragh Campbell) seems aware of what's really going on between her sister and her new friend, but she keeps it to herself as though worried she may lose another family member if the truth comes out.

Some have criticised the film's bland visuals, but they help us focus on the people in the frame rather than the world around them. There are some clever, economical camera setups employed by Slutsky and Watts, with an impressively staged scene in which the lovers are framed in the back of a car while their prospective male dates are in the front seats.

you can live forever review

O'Driscoll and Laporte are future stars in the making, and the romance between their characters is truly palpable. Whether you're straight or queer, you'll find yourself relating to that awkwardness you feel as a lovestruck teenager, how a simple walk home from school with the object of your affection can make you feel like you're on drugs.

I expected You Can Live Forever to be an angry film, one that would leave me feeling furious against religion and its narrow-mindedness. I didn't expect it to be such a warm and romantic tale whose primary agenda is to inspire tolerance from both sides of its central debate.

You Can Live Forever is in UK/ROI cinemas from June 16th.