I saw the trailer for the film “Being 17” by acclaimed French director André Téchiné months ago and could not wait to see it.
But chances were slim I would get a viewing. The film was released in limited theaters in the United States and I could not find it near Baltimore.
So imagine my surprise when I was bored Monday afternoon and happened to browse Netflix and there it was. I sat down right away and watched the whole thing. It was worth the wait.
“Being 17” follows two teenagers who live in a picturesque town tucked in the Pyrenees Mountains on France’s border with Spain.
Damien DeLille (actor Kacey Mottet Klein) is the smart-aleck, spoiled son of a physician mother and a military helicopter pilot. And Thomas Chardoul (Corentin Fila) is the biracial adopted son of poor cattle and goat farmers who live in the hills above town.
Damien and Thomas are not the most popular kids in school — they are the last chosen to play basketball in gym. But their common state of being outsiders does not bond them.
They bully and provoke and fight each other constantly.
But you see it is not really because they dislike each other. It’s because they desire each other but have not come to terms with their sexuality.
It’s a story many gay and bisexual men can relate to because they have lived it. And I have always suspected some bullies bully because they are attracted to the person they torment.
So Damien and Thomas convert their passion into violence, covering each other in bruises that worry Damien’s firm but sensitive mother, who is portrayed by actress Sandrine Kimberlain.
In one scene Damien follows Thomas to the gym locker room, where Thomas goes to eat his modest home-made lunches in solitude, and tries to kiss him. At first Thomas kisses back but then he suddenly recoils, surprised that he is kissing another male.
Minutes later he strikes Damien, bloodying his mouth.
Damien’s mother arranges for Thomas to live with them so he can be closer to school and his mother, who is hospitalized in town because of a risky pregnancy. Then a tragedy occurs, bringing Thomas closer to Damien’s family.
And gradually Thomas warms to Damien and gets over his fear and they consummate their relationship in a scene that is both electrifyingly erotic and warm and touching.
But will their relationship, which Thomas hides from his parents, last or will he withdraw again? I hope you have Netflix so you can watch the film and find out.
P.S. The actor Corentin Fila is magnetic. It’s worth watching the film just to watch him.