Movie Review: 17 Girls
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Length: 86 minutes
Release Date: September 21, 2012
Directed by: Delphine Coulin, Muriel Coulin
Stars: 3 out of 5
A pregnant teenager is every parent's nightmare, but what if your pregnant teenager is the inspiration for 16 other girls in her school to get pregnant too. That improbable premise is the basis for "17 Girls," which is based on a true story.
The true story that the film takes its cues from actually happened in the United States in 2008, but "17 Girls" is set in Lorient, in Brittany, France. It is a French film originally called "17 Filles," but the way the teenagers act and react to their surroundings is the same as teenagers almost anywhere, making the film relatable to many across the globe.
The main character of the movie is Camille (Louise Grinberg), who is unarguably the most popular girl in her school. She is the leader of her social group, who shun Florence (Roxane Duran); she sees her outsider status as a badge of shame. Like so many teenagers, all Florence wants to do is fit in, and she is willing to do anything to achieve that goal.
Camille finds out that she is pregnant, which at first surprises and scares her. As she tries to think things through with her closest friends, the idea of raising children together begins to take root. The group of girls figures that if they all get pregnant soon, they could give birth around the same time and share the motherhood experience with each other. They picture an almost commune-like situation where they would live and work together and babysit for each other.
As absurd as the idea might sound to adults, to Camille and her friends, it sounds like heaven. They therefore make a pact to all get pregnant, which they keep a secret for as long as they can. One by one, all of Camille's friends fall pregnant, which infuriates the parents when they find out. Once the parents begin to realize just how many of these young girls are pregnant, it creates a firestorm of controversy.
While some parents show genuine concern and empathy for their daughters, most of them are outraged and want to be able to point a finger in blame. Camille is seen as the logical scapegoat, but it really was a group decision. The angriest of parents clearly don't remember what it was like to be a teenager dealing with peer pressure, nor do they recall the naiveté that is present in that age group.
Whether they find a scapegoat or not, each family must deal with the emotional fallout of their daughter becoming a mother far too soon. They picture a bleak future where they will have few options in life because they have to put the needs of their child first.
Co-screenwriters Delphine Coulin and Muriel Coulin (who also co-directed the film) do a good job of creating a world where the girls already feel like they have no future. Lorient is portrayed as a dreary town, where even the close proximity to the beach can't save the residents from a humdrum existence. The girls need something to hold onto, and they see their unborn babies as that something. Sure, they may not get to college or obtain a fancy, high-paying job, but most of them are aware that they weren't going to anyway. The bleak area where they live has a lot to do with that outlook. In fact, the town can almost be seen as another character in the film, and it seems to help lead the girls to their fate.
The most heartbreaking part of the film is when Florence approaches Camille and her group to announce that she too is pregnant. They accept her into their clique without a second thought after that, which is tragic. Poor Florence, in her thirst for acceptance, is willing to sacrifice her whole future just to be a part of the "in" crowd. This type of teenage angst and desperation is something that most people can relate to, although it doesn't make it any less heartrending. This is a film that parents may want watch with their teenagers; it can be viewed as a cautionary tale of what happens when you get pregnant at far too young an age. It may make adolescents think before they act, which makes the film worth its weight in gold.