To put it bluntly, it’s a very touching movie that could have done a lot more with less.
French drama Being 17 chronicles some months in the lives of teenagers and high school adversaries Damien (Kacey Mottet Klein) and Thomas (Corentin Fila), one, the son of a town Doctor and a largely absent military father, the other, an adopted farmhand in the adjoining mountains forced to travel six hours each day for class.
Clashing in and out of school and sharing more fights than words, circumstance forces the two to co-exist, with a surprisingly affecting relationship develops between the pair.
Filled with first-rate performances, both Klein and Fila inhibit the heavily-contrasting young men, while Damien’s mother (Sandrine Kiberlain) is almost a third central player in a showing worthy of her hefty screen-time.
An early, extended fight between the two boys, shown in silence, is only one of a number of emotional and compelling scenes featuring the actors, each heralding their own familial narrative on the side. All this however second-fiddle to the pair’s evolving dynamic, the trials and turns the two go through are handled adeptly and frankly. As well placed as each are to manage the action, there is nonetheless just a bit too much of it going on.
Their complex pairing and the added weight of Thomas’ mother’s ill health are enough to pack out the film’s fill of drama and moderate run-time, the further addition of a not entirely unrelated development regarding Damien’s father, albeit stirring, not necessarily conducive nor integral to Being 17’s emotional concluding scenes. Bent on producing a captivating human drama, which the film evidently achieves, the varied elements introduced throughout never did as much to paint its vivid picture as the simple, heartfelt and highly frequent interactions between Damien and Thomas.
Well-cast and superbly acted, even a meandering plot didn’t take too much away from a meaningful, emphatic drama.
Being 17 is screening at the Melbourne International Film Festival on Sunday 31 July and Tuesday 9 August, for tickets head to the Festival website