Review by Joseph Fayed
There is almost no social commentary about religion that has yet to be made in a film. Sexual orientation and the oppressive religious narrative surrounding it tends to be one of the common plots filmmakers have used in recent years. You Can Live Forever tackles that subject with care, even if it feels like the message has been repeated many times already.
Teenager Jaime is sent to live in a Jehovah's Witness community in Canada. Soon after, she meets Marike and becomes smitten with her. When the two realize they can't keep their feelings for each other a secret any longer, the whole world surrounding their faith begins to crumble. Denial isn't just a river in Egypt.
Religion typically doesn't make sense from an outsider's perspective. Films and other media that portray the protagonist as an outcast — like Jaime initially is when moving in with her religious Aunt and Uncle — often empathize with the protagonist in a way that makes the other characters seem delusional. The Jehovahs in this film aren't a parody. Instead, the film serves as an opportunity to shed light on how a Jehovah's teenager can live two completely different lifestyles simultaneously.
Our two lead performers allow their characters to be multifaceted. As teenagers, they also playfully act as though with their youth and environment that they are still figuring out their relationship status. In other films, I would consider this annoying and poorly written. But this film has embraced its youthful characters, particularly Marike, for being layered. Marike's faith is obviously a large part of who she is as a person. She even quotes at one point in the film that her interest in Jaime is like being tested by God, which is the biggest question left to answer.
There are no miracles in You Can Live Forever. No one from the closeted teenage lesbians to the sheltered Jehovah's can truly articulate why. Anyone with an ounce of knowledge of Jehovah's Witness knows why Jamie and Marike's relationship would be frowned upon. Convincing an adult Jehovah's Witness is nearly impossible, but this film adequately explores how complex a teenager still discovering themselves must feel. Self-discovery doesn't occur overnight, which is why I think the third act works very well. Jamie and Marike are polar opposites in this sense, and they seem like the perfect match at first until they're not. Societal structures such as religious institutions can redefine a relationship. There is no turning back on that, and this film's conclusion sets that up well. The biggest lesson learned here is that even Canadians aren't safe from being handed pamphlets at their doorsteps.
You Can Live Forever is now in theaters and on VOD.