Being 17 (Quand on a 17 ans), 2016
Signed up the 29/03/2017
Being 17 or Quand on a 17 ans in French is a 2016 drama film directed by André Téchiné.
The film follows two 17 year old boys Thomas and Damien who develop an awakening after having animosity towards each other. Both Thomas and Damien are outsiders at school so you would think that would bring them together but nope, Thomas initially begins bullying Damien, but as the film develops the "bullying" makes sense when through a series of scenes throughout we learn that Thomas just craves what Damien has. Damien's response to the bullying by getting self defense classes. Things get awkward between the two when Thomas's mom gets sick and Damien's mom takes him in.
The film at it's core is a love story that's told through the exploration of human emotions and "suffering" dear I say. I say suffering because I found myself finding characters who were suffering physically (Thomas's mom) and in need of relief from the pain and those who suffered internally (Thomas, Damien and later Damien's mom) that were looking for a form of escape to the internal pain and as the film progressed that suffering got better (Thomas's mom, who was going through a risky pregnancy gives birth) or worse (Damien's mom, who suffers a huge lose that changes everything) although this loss brings together Damien and Thomas and pushes them to revelations about themselves.
The story happens over three trimesters as we see on screen. In the first trimester we see how Thomas's bullying pushes Damien to self defense classes, we see Damien in his happy home. The happiness is even presented in the subtle use of the warm orange, sunset, fireplace colours, as contrast to Thomas's some what cold home, by cold I don't mean his family is broken and such I mean Thomas is biracial and adopted so with his mothers pregnancy his feelings of being an outsider intensify, he also has to walk 90 minutes every day just to get to school which and his grades suffer, walking through a harsh snowy mountain terrain might I add. Thomas's world which is covered in snow (the whole town has snow) but more so by Thomas, where the naturalistic blues and whites are used to show and intensify the cold.
The second trimester looks at the coming together of these two opposing forces and a sexual awakening from Damien who seeks to discover his sexuality, while this trimester is a subtle blend of both Thomas and Damien's world. The third trimester is much warmer as both sides coming full circle and without spoiling anything, they find peace. Also the characters sexuality is not seen as taboo here which is wonderful because it feels normal.
What André Téchiné does well is show Damien's sexual awakening without being clichéd, in fact he makes it so simple and real it felt so close to home. Same goes with Thomas as he resists at first but it's not because he doesn't want to be gay, it feels like he doesn't want to love someone, cause he feels unworthy.
Same with the struggles of Thomas, André uses and avoids all the clichéd tropes of the classic bully.
Being 17 is a beautiful film that comes with the vibrancy of adolescent life and with the violence that's not even graphic (some would say it's not violent at all) but also blends perfectly with with the tenderness of self discovery and coming out, which doesn't feel clichéd and forced.
The film with it's intriguing characters and amazing cast that provide powerful performances, bring a sensual and moving piece that's really one of the best coming of age films I've seen in a while. I love French cinema and André is a legend in the game so I suggest this beauty to any film lover.
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