Festival Review: Being 17 (2016)

Quand On A Dix-Sept Ans

Exploring themes of identity, masculinity and desire, André Techiné’s Being 17 is a delicate portrait of adolescent confusion and first love.

Nature Boy

by Mark Wilshin

Being 17

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Taking place over three trimesters, Being 17 tells the story of both two schoolboys – Damien (Kacey Mottet Klein) and Thomas (Alexis Loret), but also of a birth – the unexpected and no longer even hoped for pregnancy of Thomas’ adoptive mother. But there’s something else coming to life in these French mountains, and Techiné tells his story of an adolescent, burgeoning gay love with delicate mastery, refusing to rush in his progression from mutual aggression and stolen looks to its eventual declarations of love. As much a story of self-discovery and sexual exploration as gay love, Quand On A Dix-Sept Ans handles its plot with precision. And with a keen script cowritten by Céline Sciamma, Sandrine Kiberlain’s character becomes more than just a mother and wife mourning the death of her military husband, as a generous and quick-witted doctor who takes it upon herself to help Thomas improve his grades. Every character is afforded their own story – and while Damien cooks or looks up guys on the internet, Thomas lives a different life up in the mountains, working on the family farm, following bear tracks and taking night dips in a frozen lake. Its story might not be the most original or affecting, but with its sensitive storytelling and rich characterisation, Being 17 is an evocative portrait of the first tendrils of love.

Being 17 is now showing at the Berlin Film Festival

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