Flawed “Being 17” Shows Tender Realities of Adolescence

By Sophie Bennett, Contributing Writer

“Being 17” is an exploration of two young men’s relationship in a desolate area of France. At the vulnerable age of 17, two bickering boys, Tom and Damien,  in an isolated school in the mountains of France end up being forced to live together.  Their proximity blows up all of the rifts that grow between lads in adolescence, and the film plays out the conflict wonderfully.

Tom, who resides with his parents in the Pyrenees Mountains of France, has a three-hour trek to and from school every day. After his mother learns of her dangerous pregnancy, Damien’s mother offers to let Tom live with her family, who reside much closer to school. Thus the two boys have drastically different personalities and aspirations, but are forced to cohabitate. When Tom first moves in, the two are constantly getting in brawls. However, over time they start getting along and form a strong connection.

Veteran director Andre Techine and writing partner Celine Sciamma give the story a unique, youthful, representation of the oft-disparaged teenage years. One of the strongest parts of the film is the juxtaposition of the two boy’s relationship with the relationship between Damien’s parents. While the young men struggle with their emotions and feelings towards one another, Damien’s parents struggle with the absence of one another while Damien’s father is in the military overseas.

Actor Corentin Fila, who plays Tom, was originally cast because of his striking image and innocence. Once filming started, however, there was a complexity behind his performance that was simply not as present in fellow actor Kacey Mottet-Klein, who played Damien.

Sandrine Kiberlain, Damien’s mother, gave a similar outstanding performance. It was noticeable the experience she held over the rest of the cast. Not only did Sandrine show her ferocity as a mother and the emotion and passion she had for her husband, but also her moral values as a human being.  Both performances shine the brightest and establish the tension that exists between all the relationships in the films. Although all of the actors were competent in the film, none of them could make up for the awkward editing choices and poor cinematography.

Considering “Being 17” is set in the picturesque landscape of France, the films shows weakness in its cinematography. With few shots of the beautiful scenery — as well as poor quality in those shots — the film, which could have easily flourished in cinematography instead fell short. This was especially alarming considering Techine’s experience with nature in his films.

When it came to editing, for the most part the film was strong, however there were several awkward cuts thrown in somewhat randomly. The cuts may have been chosen as a unique editing choice, but all in all they distracted from the contents of the film.

Although these aspects of “Being 17” were disappointing, the writing and direction made up for the flaws of the film. Damien and Tom’s relationship growth as well as character development remained consistently strong throughout the film. Both characters are at a confusing stage of their lives, but Techine’s skill allowed for an exploration into the tenuous age.

“Being 17”  was released on Oct. 7, 2017 and is being shown both at the IFC Center and The Lincoln Plaza Cinemas 6.

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