With a father abroad in the military and a pregnant mother bedridden with a pulmonary infection, what are two 17-year-old boys to do when their lives are compromised and their sexualities begin to manifest? Being 17, directed by André Téchiné (In the Name of My Daughter), follows the lives of two unsure high school students. Damien Delille (Kacey Mottet Klein) lives alone with his mother while his father is on a military mission abroad. His classmate, Thomas Charpoul (Corentin Fila), an adopted child of sheep and cattle farmers, begins to bully Damien at school. His actions are at first perceived as homophobic, but are soon revealed as a cover for his new and uncomfortable feelings of attraction. When Thomas’ mother becomes ill, Damien’s mother urges him to temporarily move in so he can focus on his studies, all the while unaware that the fighting (and sexual tension) is escalating between the boys behind closed doors.
After Thomas moves in, he and Damien bounce back and forth from friends to enemies to almost-lovers to enemies again. Although the film is mildly clichéd, it’s impossible to ignore the subtle and unique eroticism employed in Being 17—light touching, tense silence, heavy eye contact, poetry.
The idiosyncrasies of the characters is far more praiseworthy than the overall film itself. Its narrative is anticlimactic for the most part, lingering in filler scenes and delaying the ending of the story. The shockingly accurate sex scene between Damien and Thomas isn’t sugarcoated and there is no no gay-porn hamartia or ignoring of pain. You’ll find yourself sighing from relief that Damien and Thomas have had such a sexual awakening, but the ending is so predictable you’ll sigh from apathy having just wasted 116 minutes of your life waiting for an ending you could have guessed in the first 10.
Center for Contemporary Arts,