"Remember how devastated you were at first? So why get others to do the same?”
In 2008, 18 students at Gloucester High School in Gloucester, MA, all got pregnant. At the time, the principal said that there had been a pact between a number of the girls to all get pregnant together. The mayor later came out to say that there wasn’t a pact, and later some of the girls said there was a pact but it had been made after the pregnancies and more about helping each other raise their babies together.
The initial story about the pregnancy pact had gotten out into the world, however, and created quite a fervor because the concept of so many young teens making a life-altering decision like this in such an off-the-cuff way is so frightening. Some people wrote books, others made Lifetime movies. French writer/director sisters Delphine and Muriel Coulin adapted the concept into their feature film debut 17 Filles, or 17 Girls in English. Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we kick off our Tenth Anniversary series, celebrating films celebrating their 10th anniversaries as we celebrate our own – with Coulins’ 17 Filles, or 17 Girls.
It’s a challenging film for each of us for different reasons, which makes for a lot to talk about with 17 Girls.
Pete didn’t like this movie. He didn’t like the characters. He found the story fairly boring. Andy liked the movie, but didn’t love it. He found more compelling elements in a few of the characters but certainly not all of them. He didn’t find it boring but understands how people could find it that way.
We mainly focus on Camille, the first of the girls to get pregnant, but she’s a challenging character to have as a protagonist. Is she more our antagonist? There is a moment early on when we get a sense of her life at home. Does that give us what we need to latch on to her and start feeling what she’s going through? Or do we need more?
How About the 17 Girls in 17 Girls?
What about #2? This speaks partly to our frustrations about the film – we’re assuming all 17 of the girls have names, but we aren’t given many of them in the film. But #2 gets pregnant just because she wants to be part of the in-crowd. Of all the stories, perhaps hers is the most tragic. But we’re not given much of her.
How about Clémentine? If any girls ends up getting more of our sympathy, surely it’s her. She’s desperate to stay a part of the club so does everything she can to get pregnant, even though her body is too small to handle a pregnancy. She runs away from home after fighting with her parents and her friends put her up in an abandoned trailer by the beach. It’s miserable. But do we end up garnering much sympathy for her?
This is the challenge of the film. It’s constructed more like a parable or fable, and we don’t find much to connect with the characters themselves. Is that a problem in context of this film? Or would it be fine if the story had more energy?
17 Girls is a slow-paced film.
We spend a lot of time with our group of pregnant girls together as well as alone. When they’re alone, they’re often sitting quietly at home looking scared, helpless, lost. When they’re together, they’re talking about all the great times they’ll have helping each other care for their children. If you can’t connect with these girls, it’s easy to feel bored. And that’s a big part of our conversation.
We also talk about the nature of the town of Lorient, France, where the story takes place. It feels like a dying town, and perhaps we’re meant to feel that the people here are dying as much as the town is and in a weird way, these girls may be trying to find a way to latch onto life. That also ties into the ladybugs we see in the film.
It’s an interesting film to kick off our new series with. Is it a fun film? No, but it provides a lot of points for discussion. Perhaps that’s all we needed right now, even if it’s not a film we’ll be returning to. Check it out (or not) then tune in to this week’s episode! The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins!
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When the movie ends, our conversation begins.
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