Quand on a 17 ans (Being 17) review — Young men fight and love

Directed by André Téchiné | Written by Téchiné and Céline Sciamma | 109 min


Damien (Kacey Mottet Klein) and Thomas (Corentine Fila) are in the same class in their French high school. Thomas and Damien rub each other the wrong way. Both are pretty much silent in their mutual dislike, mostly communicated over sullen, simmering, and smouldering glances—they have their first actual conversation 45 minutes into the film.  Around them, the adults collude to bring them together: Damien’s mother (Sandrine Kiberlain) is a GP and Thomas’ mother is unwell and needs a hospital stay. Because Thomas lives up in the Pyrenees, a long transit from the school, he’s invited to stay with Damien and his family in town. That’s when things get intense between the two guys, struggling to come to terms with whatever it is that’s between them.


The films isn’t without clumsy moments, periodically victimized by a certain kind of melodrama popular in both French dramas and gay coming-of-age movies. Though Damien has the poster for C.R.A.Z.Y. on his wall, Being 17 doesn’t quite manage Jean-Marc Vallée’s joyful surreality. What it does get right is the awkwardness, confusion, and raw emotion of youth. That’s all carried in the leads’ performances, which are terrific.


Kiberlain, whose subplot with her husband (Alexis Loret), away in the military, is also well-handled and pays off late in the running.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.