Directed by Delphine and Muriel Coulin
Inspired by true life events which took place in Gloucester, USA in 2008, 17 Filles is the modern story of female solidarity, dreams and growing up, which entices us with its down-to-earth approach and amiable characters.
Lorient, France. 16 year old Camille finds out that she’s pregnant during a routine health check at school. Deciding to keep the baby, she receives more than enough support from her friends who form a pact – they will all get pregnant in order to stay together. The pact holds the girls together like glue. Although originally only 4 girls from the ‘inner circle’ decide to join Camille in her pregnancy, more and more girls join, forming friendships.
17 Filles depicts the idealistic values of the 17 girls – wanting to bring their children up together whilst staying in school. Camille tells her friends that she’ll have “two lives: one at school and one with the baby”, whilst the others nod in agreement. They also claim that the 16 year age gap is brilliant – they can connect with their children, much more than their own parents can connect with them. How hard could it be?
Standing in solidarity at the pharmacy
However, several dark undertones bring us down to earth at regular intervals. For example, one of the ‘younger’ characters, Clémentine (played effortlessly by Yara Pilartz) struggles with being the ‘baby’ of the group and longs to rid herself of her virginity, eventually offering to pay the father of her baby for sex. We also experience the wrath of Clémentine’s parents, who claim that she’s too young and that it’s dangerous for her to give birth. Whereas her mother weeps with despair, her father is angry.
As well as the hurdles which the main characters face, we’re also brought down to the harsh reality with the shots of minor characters sitting in their room, alone and worrisome. Here, we can only guess the thoughts which run through their minds: The severity of the situation or how they will tell their parents.
The characters of the 17 are instantly recognisable from our own school days. From the natural leader, the headstrong Camille, to the wannabe Florence who’ll do anything to be involved in the ‘cool’ group, we recognise our own friends and ourselves from the 17. We become attached to them, we understand their motives- whether it be out of loyalty or just to be part of something that’s going on.
Florence asks Camille for advice
The film, for me, is not about rebellion. Instead, 17 Filles depicts the lengths that girls will go to in order to help their friends, with severe consequences. The desire to prove themselves to others, to grow up quickly, to show how mature they are. For example, they pore over a book about pregnancy, whilst each of the inner circle offer something that they know already about pregnancy.
We watch as outsiders, swept up in their dreams of happy lives together, bringing up the children but shaking our heads in disbelief at the blasé attitude they adopt towards motherhood.
It could be argued that 17 Filles loses some of its realism due to the fact that the girls party a lot, drink and continue to smoke. However, it could also be argued that this adds to the realistic situation: the 17 either don’t understand the severity of looming motherhood or refuse to acknowledge it.
The film, however, lacks in certain areas. Although there are 3, possibly 4 strong main characters, I’d have preferred to see more of the other girls. I’d have liked for some other girls to have speaking parts, instead of staying silent and I’d also like to know how Clémentine’s relationship with her family works out.
Although 17 Filles is often compared to both Juno and Knocked Up, it’s necessary to remember that both Juno and Knocked Up are unplanned pregnancies. The 17 (apart from perhaps Camille – but we’ll never know for sure) decide to get pregnant. Because of this, it could be argued that 17 Filles is refreshing and oddly more realistic than both Juno and Knocked Up.
Dingue – Crazy, wild
J’en ai marre de – I am sick of
L’écographie (f) – the ultrasound
La couette – quilt, duvet
C’est le dernier de tes soucis – that’s the least of your worries