Brad Wheeler - The Globe and Mail
“And those whose names were never called, when choosing sides for basketball.” The singer-songwriter Janis Ian wrote At Seventeen
at age 22; the five-year lag in learning the truth seems about right.
In the French auteur André Téchiné’s well-measured queer teen drama Being 17,
erotic awakenings are unsure and self-awareness is hesitant in coming.
Two teens are gym-class afterthoughts when it comes to picking teams:
Damien (Kacey Mottet Klein) is a Rimbaud-reading mama’s boy who takes
boxing lessons from a neighbour; loner classmate Thomas (Corentin Fila)
is a biracial bully whose heart doesn’t seem to be in the bullying.
These outsiders fight each other and themselves in a slowly blossoming
and softly tense story set in France’s Hautes-Pyrénées. The casting is
impeccable – in particular, Sandrine Kiberlain as Damien’s assertive
physician mother. “You’re lacking in confidence,” she tells her son, “in
yourself, in others, in life.” Age in Being 17 comes in awkward bursts, and yet the film moves sublimely. Director Téchiné, 73 years old, is wise beyond his years.