Being 17

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Being 17
Quand on a 17 ans.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAndré Téchiné
Produced byOlivier Delbosc
Marc Missonnier
Written byAndré Téchiné
Céline Sciamma
StarringSandrine Kiberlain
Kacey Mottet Klein
Corentin Fila
Music byAlexis Rault
CinematographyJulien Hirsch
Edited byAlbertine Lastera
Distributed byWild Bunch Distribution
Release date
  • 14 February 2016 (2016-02-14) (Berlin)
  • 30 March 2016 (2016-03-30) (France)
Running time
116 minutes
Budget$6 million [1]
Box office$2.1 million [2]

Being 17 (French: Quand on a 17 ans) is a 2016 French drama film directed by André Téchiné and starring Kacey Mottet Klein, Corentin Fila and Sandrine Kiberlain. The script was written by Téchiné in collaboration with Céline Sciamma. The plot follows the romantic and sexual awakening of two seventeen-year-old boys as their initial animosity, expressed in violence, morphs into love. Being 17 borrows its title from the second half-line of the first verse of Roman, (1870) by Arthur Rimbaud: On n'est pas sérieux quand on a dix-sept ans.[3]


Smart and sensitive, Damien is a seventeen-year-old student who lives with his mother Marianne, a doctor. His father, Nathan, is a military pilot on a mission abroad. They enjoy a comfortable life in a small town located in a valley among the mountains of the Hautes-Pyrénées.

In high school, Damien gets picked on by Thomas, a classmate, who trips him in the middle of class for no apparent reason. From then on there are constant altercations between them while playing sports and in the schoolyard. Both are outsiders at school chosen last for sports teams. In order to protect himself, Damien takes self-defense classes with Paulo, an ex-military family friend.

Meanwhile, Thomas, who is the biracial adopted son of a couple of sheep and cattle farmers, faces his own set of problems. Every day, he has to walk and bus for 90 minutes to reach the school. Marianne makes a house call to Thomas's farm when his mother, Christine, has a pulmonary infection. Christine, who has a history of miscarriages, is pregnant and has to be hospitalized for some time. As the reserved Thomas worries about his mother and the birth of a biological child to his parents, his grades in school begin to fail. Wanting to help, Marianne invites Thomas to come and stay with her family so he can visit his mother in town at the hospital and spend more time studying and avoid the long trip to school every day. This coincides with a blissful return home for Nathan for leave between his tours of duty abroad. Nathan is lovingly welcomed by his wife and son and takes it upon himself, during his short visit, to personally invite Thomas to stay with his family. Pressed by his parents, Thomas reluctantly accepts.

Sharing the same household does not improve the relationship between the two teenagers. Damien resents that his mother is charmed by Thomas and accuses him of getting sick so he can be examined by Marianne. Away from home, the two boys fight each other in the mountains. Damien asks Thomas to drive to see a man whom he has contacted online for a sexual encounter. Thomas reluctantly drives him there, but Damien backs down, unsure of his feelings. On their way back home, Damien confesses his feelings to Thomas, saying, "I don't know if I'm into guys or just you." Thomas does not welcome the revelation. He stops the car and gets out at the bank of a river. While trying to rebuff Damien, Thomas falls into a ditch and breaks his wrist. Realizing that the two boys have continued fighting, Marianne asks Thomas to return to his farm the next day. Damian and Thomas get closer at school while sitting in class together. Damien takes the first step and kisses Thomas, who initially seems to welcome the affection, but then retaliates violently, hitting Damien in the face. Thomas is expelled from school. Damien tells his mother that Thomas hit him because he kissed him, revealing his true feelings for Thomas. Marianne is sympathetic to her son.

Nathan is killed in a mission, shattering the lives of his wife and son. After the funeral, Thomas embraces Damien while consoling him. As Marianne falls into a deep depression, Thomas moves back to live with them to help look after Marianne. He keeps her company while Damien is away at school. The relationship between the two boys warms up. They work together, discussing a classroom project on desire. When Marianne finds the strength to go back to work, it is time for Thomas to return to his farm. Marianne goes to bed earlier that night. Damien tells Thomas that he loves him and that he is not afraid of his feelings. Thomas kisses him and they make love. The next morning, Thomas leaves before Damien wakes up. Damien goes to Thomas's farm where they talk about the previous night and their feelings. Thomas is nervous after the birth of his sister, so Marianne and Damien accompany him to the happy occasion. Marianne decides that it is better for her to take a job offer and move to Lyon. She tells her son that Thomas can come and visit, but Damien is doubtful. Marianne then tells him that he has to have more confidence in himself and in life. Thomas happily goes down to the slope to see Damien and they kiss.



For his 21st feature film, director André Téchiné returned to the theme of adolescent life more than twenty years after his success with Wild Reeds (1994). The script was written by Téchiné in collaboration with Céline Sciamma, director of three coming-of-age films: Water Lilies (2007), Tomboy (2011) and Girlhood (2014). About their collaboration, Téchiné explained: "I had a lot of admiration for what she's brought to French film, the innovative side of her work on adolescence, and I knew that my film would revolve around two teenagers. Moreover, I wanted the film to contain as little dialogue as possible, for it to be as physical as possible as you have these characters that aren't capable of putting their experience into words at all. In writing the screenplay, myself and Céline very much agreed on this, on creating something extremely minimalistic when it came to dialogue."[4]

The film was produced by Fidélité Films. Shooting took place in around Bagnères-de-Luchon encompassing two different periods: a winter session, wrapped on 13 February 2015, and several weeks in the summer (from 25 June-31 July 2015). Téchiné choose to set the story in Southwest France in the Hautes-Pyrénées, with its mountainous landscapes, a region of the country rarely depicted in films. Téchiné commented: "I thought that would visually work very well. It also struck me that these mountains, with their evil charm and enchanting quality, seem to belong to a magical world like that of adolescence, which is lost when you enter the altogether more pragmatic adult world"[4]


The film premiered in competition at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival.[5][6] It garnered a widespread critical acclaim. It holds a positive rating of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 31 reviews.[7]

Stephen Holden in the New York Times described the film as "A touching drama about raging hormones, bullying and sexual awakening - and the strongest film in many years by the post-New Wave French director André Téchiné."[8]

In the Los Angeles Times Justin Chang commented, " Being 17 unfolds over the course of a year divided into three chapters, or "trimesters," as they're labeled on screen. It's a reference to the term schedule of the French school system, but also to the new life developing in Christine's womb — a fitting choice for a movie that plays, by the end, like the work of an artist newly born".[9]

Film critic Glenn Kenny from quoted from the film, "Need is part of nature … desire is not of natural origin. It is superfluous. So goes a reading in one of Thomas and Damien's school assignments. The project of Being 17, which is realized via the accretion of dozens of wonderful details, is to prove that assertion entirely wrong, to celebrate desire as the most natural and necessary thing in our lives".[10]

Writing for The Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney called the film "quite extraordinary ... an ultra-naturalistic slice of rocky adolescent life that combines violence and sensuality, wrenching loss and tender discovery."[11]


Award / Film Festival Category Recipients and nominees Result
Berlin International Film Festival Golden Bear Nominated
César Awards Most Promising Actor Corentin Fila Nominated
Kacey Mottet Klein Nominated
Dorian Awards LGBTQ Film of the Year Nominated
Lumières Awards Most Promising Actor Corentin Fila Nominated
Kacey Mottet Klein Nominated
Outfest Grand Jury Award Won


  1. ^ "Quand on a 17 ans (Being 17) (2016) - JPBox-Office". Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Being 17". Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  3. ^ Prot, Bénédicte (15 February 2016). "Being 17: Film Focus". Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  4. ^ a b Lemercier, Fabien (16 February 2016). "André Téchiné Director". Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  5. ^ "Jan 11, 2016: Berlinale Competition 2016: Another nine films selected". Berlinale. Archived from the original on 12 January 2016. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  6. ^ "Berlin Film Festival Adds Nine Films to Competition Lineup". Variety. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  7. ^ "Being 17". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  8. ^ Holden, Stephen (6 October 2016). "Being 17: movie review". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  9. ^ Chang, Justin (17 October 2016). "Being 17: movie review". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  10. ^ Kenny, Glenn (7 October 2016). "Being 17: movie review". Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  11. ^ Rooney, David (14 February 2016). "Being 17: movie review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 17 October 2016.

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