You Can Live Forever – the longing lust of lesbian love
You Can Live Forever tells the story of Jaime (Anwen O’Driscoll), who lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario during the 1990s, and loves sci-fi, The Cure and getting high. And unbeknownst to anyone around her, she’s gay.
When her father dies and her mother suffers a breakdown, she’s sent to Quebec’s Saguenay region to live with her aunt (Liane Balaban) and uncle (Antoine Yared), members of the town’s tight-knit Jehovah’s Witness community. Jaime feels like an outcast. But when she’s dragged to a religious service, Jaime unexpectedly meets Marike (June Laporte).
The two are instantly drawn to each other, and begin a secret, unspoken romance. But when their attraction becomes too obvious to hide, the community moves to separate the two. As the teens grow closer over time, Jaime finds herself drawn deeper into the Witness theology, which promises an eternal life in God’s promised kingdom after the world ends, which Marike stronger believes and Jamie does not. Soon both girls will be forced to make a devastating choice between faith and love.
The film was shot in the Saguenay river valley, where the magnificent fjord landscape provides a backdrop to the film’s haunting romance. Audiences will also spot locations in and around Montreal, including
Cinéma du Parc (where one of the film’s pivotal scenes takes place).
The time period is conveyed through subtle ways with Jaime often seen reading Arthur C. Clarke’s science fiction classic Rendezvous With Rama, a soundtrack featuring indie legends like Cocteau Twins and The Breeders, clips of Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, Sega Genesis, and also with the t-shirts Jamie wears (Siouxsie and the Banshees, New Order).
Also starring are Deragh Campbell as Marike’s concerned older sister, and Hasani Freeman as Jaime’s schoolmate in whom she confides.
The film marks the feature debut of Montreal writers/directors Sarah Watts and Mark Slutsky. Watts herself grew up gay in a Jehovah’s Witness community. The film is produced by Rob Vroom of
Prospector Films, and premiered at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival.
I grew up gay in a Jehovah’s Witness community in a small northern town. As a teenager, I was eager to see a story with a character who even remotely resembled me on the movie screen. But I was always disappointed. When there were lesbian characters they were inevitably used as plot points and usually died tragic deaths. I was so desperate for representation that I spent all the money I’d been saving for a trip to Europe to fly to Vancouver so I could see Bound on the big screen. When I met Mark and explained my upbringing to him, he immediately understood my point of view. For years, we worked together to create a film that could honor my own background and the experiences of other young people in a similar predicament. You Can Live Forever is the movie I always wanted to see as a teenager.
– Sarah Watts
When Sarah told me about her upbringing as Jehovah’s Witness over drinks at a Montreal dive bar, I was riveted. I could see the images in my head like I was watching an intense film. I knew that we had the material to create something really special. We worked side-by-side for years building a screenplay that conveys the reality of the remarkable, fragile relationship at the heart of Jaime’s story. The punishment for homosexuality in the Jehovah’s Witness community is “disfellowship,” in which the sinner is cast out of the community, unable to ever see their friends and loved ones–the only people they have ever known again, less they repent and make amends. It is a harrowing, unthinkable punishment. And because of that looming threat, the love affair between Jaime and Marike is multi-layered and complex, playing out beneath the surface in glances, touches, and often wordless communication. Having grown up in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Sarah has a true insider’s perspective to a community that is little-known and even less understood. Their beliefs, their rituals and their unique apocalyptic worldview are some of the most compelling elements of Jaime’s story and the backdrop to which this love affair plays out–and ultimately the reason why it is so heartbreaking. You Can Live Forever is a powerful story about being a stranger in a strange land, about first love, about blind faith, and about how far we are willing to go to find happiness.
– Mark Slutsky
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.