You Can Live Forever **
Starring: Anwen O’Driscoll, June Laporte, Liane Balaban
Directors : Mark Slutsky, Sarah Watts
Following the death of her father, teenager Jaime (O’Driscoll) goes to stay with her Jehovah’s Witness relatives, living on the Canadian East Coast. There she meets Marike (Laporte), the daughter of a neighbouring Elder, with whom she shares an immediate connection. As their relationship deepens, the intensity of their friendship develops into something more, becoming harder and harder to hide from the community around them.
This coming-of-age romance is a nuanced piece that comes from co-director Watts’ own experiences growing up. Its most interesting moments are the little nuggets of isolationism that we see drip-feed through Marike throughout the film: she doesn’t know what a video game is, she’s doesn’t see the problem with being chaperoned, her social life revolves around prayer meetings. Jaime might be an outsider coming into the commune, but Marike has been decidedly – and willingly – indoctrinated, so when it comes to making a choice between her love and her upbringing, the choice is much more difficult.
Stolid normalcy overwhelms the film, with the characters barely squeaking when domineering despotism is ladled over them by their families. And yet – inexplicably – they are weirdly demonstrative, careless about being exposed. For a film that hinges on that risk, both characters are perplexingly laissez-faire. And those aren’t their only flaws. Lethargic, languid and lacklustre, neither leaves us with care for either or both of them whatsoever. Add to that its glacially slow-burn, the striking visuals of an epic coastline cannot save what is otherwise a laboured plod.
UK Release: 16th June 2023 in cinemas and on VOD, released by Peccadillo Pictures