Being 17

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  • Directed by André Téchiné
  • Starring Kacey Mottet Klein, Corentin Fila, Sandrine Kiberlain
  • Written by Céline SciammaAndré Téchiné
  • Drama, Queer
  • NR (I’d say Rated R)
  • 116 mins.
  • 30 March 2016

Synopsis

A boy named Thomas, whose mother is ill and whose grades at school are suffering, is invited to live with the doctor who takes care of his mother and her son Damien. However, at school, Thomas and Damien are always at odd with each other, and more than once it has come to blows. When Marianne invites Thomas to live with her and Damien, Damien and Thomas must face the real reason that they don’t get along.

How’s the Story?

The story in Being 17 is really interesting. I genuinely found myself unsure of where things were going at points, and I liked that. This isn’t your typical teen queer romance story, it’s a story that has far more to the plot than just teenage self-discovery, and I found myself genuinely caring about the rest of the story as well.

How’s the Acting?

The acting is great, actually. The performance of Marianne is particularly beautifully done. She’s so believable and you feel like she’s a real person. That said, I’m not at all downplaying how good the boys playing Thomas and Damien are, too. This film, overall, is really well performed.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

This is where I get kind of annoyed. This film is very interesting and the story is very cleverly told, but there are things that feel unearned. I’m not even sure if that’s the way I really want to say it, but unearned is the best way I can describe it. Perhaps abandoned? Or unexplored? Maybe all three of those in tandem. Either way, I get frustrated with the film taking directions or introducing things that never get explored well enough and then having conclusions met in a way that seems like it wasn’t earned. And a few scenes are just entirely out of place.

For example, the bear thing is never really explored. There’s this introduction of this motif or theme or SOMETHING they intended about Thomas claiming he saw a bear and then him finding bear tracks in the woods near Marianne and Damien’s house… and that’s it. It’s never studied further. I’m not sure if I’m missing the point of that or what, but it felt entirely abandoned or not explored or however you want to phrase that. Also there’s the whole scene where Marianne is having a sex dream about her husband that is entirely random. It has no place in that place in the movie and I genuinely didn’t get what it was meant to give to the story there.

And most of all, I feel like the way that Thomas and Damien get together doesn’t really feel earned? By the time they get together it makes sense, but there’s a change somewhere in the middle that I just feel like wasn’t really explained. It’s like the character development wasn’t shown, you are just told it happened sometime off screen, and it works okay, but it doesn’t feel earned because I wanted to see it more than I did.

However, for all those negatives, the writing is still very original and the direction is good. I just think there were things that were introduced but never explored to the extent it should have been to warrant being there.

How’s the Cinematography?

The cinematography is stunning. I actually said to a couple of friends while we were doing a podcast recording that this movie felt like someone found this beautiful place in France and knew someone who was a great DP and went, “I’m going to write a film JUST so I can shoot it here!” The nature scenes are absolutely incredible.

Beyond the beautiful location, however, I really like the way this film often stays in tight on people’s faces while they’re walking and talking and stuff. It’s very reminiscent of this short film I saw in a production class called Magnesium. It was ENTIRELY in this girls face the whole time, and while this doesn’t do that, there is that same sense of ‘we are entirely connected to this person and experiencing what THEY experience’ in keeping so close to their faces.

Also, I’m not sure if I love it or think it’s misplaced, but there’s a very interesting use of jump cuts in this film. It’s only in a few scenes, so it feels kinda weird, but I like the kind of feel it gives those scenes. It feels like a nod to the French New Wave and it’s just a very interesting way to make the scenes it’s used in more interesting.

Is It Worth Watching?

I would recommend this to anyone who likes queer film. It’s not only a good FILM for queer film (often queer films are acted/shot/written like really crappy D-movies), but it’s also a queer film where there are no stereotypes played into, nobody gets AIDS, nobody kills themselves, ect. It’s a film that is about more than just somebody being queer. It’s a film about characters and their lives at this point in time and the two teens happen to be queer.

I also recommend it to anybody that is interested in very different film-making approaches with the strange writing and the random use of jump cuts. It’s definitely not your average film as far as just film-making goes. It’s very much a ‘cinephile’ film and I think even if the subject matter isn’t as appealing to you, the film-making would keep you interested.

My Rating: 7/10

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About J. Chelsea Williford

Student at Middle Georgia State University, writer, pop culture lover.
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