Review of You Can Live Forever (2023)

A gentle and compassionate debut feature of the writer / directors Mark Slutsky and Sarah Watts, the last to grow up gay in a community of Jehovah’s Witnesses, “You Can Live Forever” lets the romantic tension between its protagonists slowly and naturally, with stolen glances and small touches . As Jaime and Marike circle each other, at once delighting and hurting each other, 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 when she and Jaime begin an illicit activity behind the scenes. closed doors (or inside the movie theater stalls, as it were). That the elders of the community would stop the relationship was understood from the beginning. Even Marike’s suspicious older sister (Deragh Campbell) should be avoided. But “You Can Live Forever” finds the most powerful evocation of the conflict between love and faith in Marike herself, who fervently believes, like the other Witnesses, that Armageddon is near and, unlike the other Witnesses, that the a long-promised “new system of things” would allow her and Jaime to be together, forever. And if Jaime is not as he believes? Then, Marike answered, “My faith is enough for both of us.”

Considering devotion, whether to man or a higher power, as a form of endurance born of blind faith, “You Can Live Forever” is careful not to criticize its characters for their faithfulness. faith. It is kind no matter how it is treated by the community authorities, who are respectful and sometimes unkind but always act from a place of faith. This approach, in turn, sharpens the film’s real criticisms: of closed-mindedness, of cultures of fear and isolation, and of the danger posed by the indoctrination of young people who are still developing their feelings. in itself.

Very few films have been made about Jehovah’s Witnesses; even fewer seriously engage with the rigid insularity of their belief system, although that has begun to change in recent years. Dea Kulumbegashvilinor “Origin” and “Apostasy” by Daniel Kokotajlo explores the consequences of patriarchal subjugation for women of faith. Richard Eyrenor “The Basic Law” criticized its religious opposition to blood transfusions. In its small way, “You Can Live Forever” offers a highly nuanced portrayal of sect membership, sympathy for those born into the religion, acceptance of those who embrace it as adults, and its cloistered, authoritarian stricture of all are the same.

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