Program 26 – Being 17
France / 2016 / 116 min. | Directed by: André Téchiné
In French with English subtitles
Damien (Kacey Mottet Klein) and Thomas (newcomer Corentin Fila) have an intense, almost instinctual dislike for one another. Though both boys are loners at their high school in southern France, their similar social status does nothing to endear one to the other. Thomas sees Damien as a spoiled know-it-all, while Damien views Thomas as a brainless bully, and any interaction between the two boys inevitably devolves into a physical altercation.
But when Damien’s physician mother, Marianne (the wonderful Sandrine Kiberlain, Violette, ImageOut 2014) makes a house call to the mountain farm owned by Thomas’adopted family, she finds herself taking an immediate liking to the boy. Unaware of the the fraught relationship between Thomas and her own son, she invites Thomas to live with them while his ailing mother recovers in in the hospital. Forced to live in close quarters, the boys clash but eventually settle into a begrudging coexistence that’s not without the expected chest thumping and aggression that’s an unavoidable part of sharing space with hormonal teenage boys. Still, there’s an undercurrent of something more simmering just beneath the surface of their youthful bravado.
Director André Téchiné (The Witnesses and Wild Reeds, a classic of LGBT cinema) and co-writer Céline Sciamma (who previously turned her sensitive eye to adolescent life in Girlhood and the well-received ImageOut 2011 selection, Tomboy) coax marvelous, naturalistic performances from their stellar cast. Kacey Mottet Klein and Corentin Fila have an electric chemistry, capturing both the roiling masculinity and youthful confusion that fuels their conflicting desires. Both attracted and repelled by the other, the boys provide a potent reminder of exactly how thin the line between love and hatred can be.
— Adam Lubitow
Winner: INTERNATIONAL GRAND JURY PRIZE Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival Finalist: AUDIENCE AWARD BEST NARRATIVE FEATURE Sydney Film Festival Official Selection: COMPETITION Berlin International Film Festival Official Selection: Frameline San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival Official Selection: Seattle International Film Festival Official Selection: New Zealand International Film Festival