Child’s play in 17 Girls
by Anthony Mirelli
15/05/2011 - How to plan one’s future when you’re a teenager living in the French town Lorient, plagued by economic problems for almost half a century? This is the dilemma facing sisters Delphine and Muriel Coulin who find the solution in an event that took place in the United States. Presented at the 50th Critics’ Week, 17 Girls [trailer] is a directorial debut loosely based on the story of a group of teenagers whose decision to all get pregnant at the same time creates chaos in their own lives and those of their families.
17 Girls is similar to films by directors such as Céline Sciamma (Water Lilies [trailer]) and Sofia Coppola. Indeed, the influence of the American director is palpable throughout the film, with the intimate filming of these young girls reminding us of her Virgin Suicides. From the school medical appointments at the opening of the film to the subsequent scans, the sisters’ camera slowly creeps into the lives of these mothers-to-be, disclosing every detail, every gesture, and every hopeful fleeting look.
In a cast comprising mostly new faces and amateurs, audiences wil recognise, however, Louise Grinberg from Laurent Cantet’s The Class [trailer, film focus] (2008 Palme d’Or) and Roxane Duran from Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon [trailer, film focus] (2009 Palme d’Or). The third seasoned young actress, Esther Garrel, stars in Bertrand Bonello’s House of Tolerance [trailer], which screens in official competition this year.
Whilst the film is sometimes more clumsy than imaginative, this does not make it any less just or engaging. It is difficult to criticise the focus on this disenchanted youth, and, at best, the film tries to understand an extreme act that is not without its consequences.
Prepared to do everything to change their lives, these girls literally play with fire in one scene of the film: the perfect illustration of a decision viewed as mere child’s play.