Sydney Film Festival: Being 17 (Review)

By Mal Booth

Editor’s note: With the Sydney Film Festival finally launching last night and sending movie-loving hearts aflutter, Heaps Gay are excited to be covering a broad selection of LGBTQI focused films (both locally produced and otherwise) over the next two weeks. First up, Mal Booth reflects on French coming-of-age flick “Being 17”.


 Violence, the unknown, so many feels, adolescence, sexual identity and discovery, teenage angst, and sexual tension.

No Griselda, I was not binge-watching Home and Away! Quelle horreur! And I say that with some meaning and cleverness because Being 17 is a very French film. Of course, I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Being 17 is a long film at almost two hours, but the story is told very well without being heavy handed, and easily held my attention (which is no small feat!). It is a gently-paced story that focuses on two teenage boys finding their way in life in a small village somewhere in the French Pyrenees. Part of their journey is their gradual sexual awakening that is accompanied by an increasing desire for each other. It isn’t all smooth sailing and nor is it predictable and full of cliches.

The cast were all well chosen and bring a rare authenticity to their respective roles. The acting from the two young boys is consistently great, even in the sex scene, and their attraction to each other seems very realistic. There are a number of touching scenes and these are all handled very sensitively (although I didn’t end up crying).The cinematography and scenery is beautiful, especially some scenes in the snow and high in the mountains, but it isn’t self-indulgent and the camera doesn’t dwell anywhere unnecessarily.

Being 17 was my opening film for SFF in 2016 and it sets the bar pretty high from the outset. I guess the film made me think about my own coming of age and brought up some memories of similarly confusing situations that were probably based around some kind of sexual tension or desire. It was good to see that it was probably a full house. What a shame that we don’t get the chance to see movies like this more often in Australia. They leave the pretentious Hollywood dross for dead.

My Bruce McAvaney Specialness Rating: 4

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