By Don Simpson | January 12, 2013
Directors: Delphine Coulin, Muriel Coulin
Writers: Delphine Coulin, Muriel Coulin
Starring: Louise Grinberg, Juliette Darche, Roxane Duran, Esther Garrel, Yara Pilartz, Solène Rigot, Noémie Lvovsky, Florence Thomassin, Carlo Brandt, Frédéric Noaille, Arthur Verret, Philippine Raude Toulliou
In the opening scene of Delphine and Muriel Coulin’s 17 Girls, Camille (Louise Grinberg) and her friends awkwardly stand in a hallway dressed only in their underwear. They may resemble young fashion models auditioning for a lingerie shoot, but despite being the popular girls at the high school they are still quite uncomfortable with their bodies. Their bodies are still transitioning into adult bodies. So their false sense of self-confidence is derived primarily smoking cigarettes and hash and swilling vodka and beer — in other words, doing adult things.
We soon discover, however, that Camille has already taken a giant leap into adulthood. She is eight weeks pregnant, following an unfortunate condom malfunction. At first she is confused about what to do, but she quickly finds companionship in her friends. Together, the girls realize the incredible power that their bodies can wield against adult authority figures while simultaneously attracting the attention of boys; they use their bodies to get recognized as adults and declare independence. They learn to define themselves by their bodies, thus solidifying the bond within their group. Even Florence (Roxane Duran) — a timid outcast — recognizes this, and adapts by growing more like the popular girls and finds her way into their fold.
Based on actual events that took place in 2008 in Gloucester, Massachusetts, 17 Girls is set in Lorient — a sleepy, working class city on the Brittany coast of France. It seems that the expansive possibilities suggested by the ocean on their horizon is merely a tease, because life choices are quite limited for the youth of Lorient, especially girls. Their future has already been preordained: high school graduation, an unrewarding working class job, marriage, and kids. In this setting, 17 Girls is about breaking from the mold of one’s society; rebelling against any assumptions about one’s future. Camille and her friends recognize the crippling mundanity of their parents’ working-class existence and they will do almost anything to escape from being dragged down into that world. Unfortunately, the alternate path they choose to take with their lives will almost definitely lead them towards an even more depressing place.