17 Girls or 17 Filles in its proper French is a fictionalized account of a true incident that happened in Massachusetts in 2008 where a group of high-school girls decided to get pregnant at the same time and raise their children together. The story begins when Camille (Louise Grinberg) unexpectedly becomes pregnant and after thinking it over, decides she is going to keep the baby. She tells her friends "I'll have two lives- one at school and one with the baby. I'll have someone who loves me my whole life, unconditionally." Word of her pregnancy quickly gets around school in the French town of Lorient, and another girl named Florence (Roxane Duran) tells Camille that she is also pregnant. This gets Florence into Camille's circle of friends who didn't like her before. Florence and Camille consider helping each other raise their children together and helping each other through the rest of school. While hanging out at a McDonald's, the idea comes up for the rest of the friends to also get pregnant and eventually become emancipated from their parents, living together as a group raising each others' children.
17 Girls doesn't judge its characters one way or another as to what they are doing. I found the acting to be very natural, but that could be partly because I don't understand French very well and trusted that the subtitles were translating everything more or less accurately. (Most of the other girls in the film are given the same first names as the actresses who play them.) I will not spoil the film by saying how the girls' plan turns out, but a big criticism I did have was that the fathers are held entirely unaccountable. Only the father of Camille's child is even a slightly significant character, the rest are simply random boys who are talked into having sex- most of this is done at a party after the girls form their plan. One girl actually offers a boy at school money to get her pregnant. The girls simply accept that they will be single mothers, but are motivated by having each others' support and dream about their ideal future together. Of course most of the parents scold the girls for their irresponsibility, with one being thrown out of her home and forced to live in an abandoned trailer. The school's faculty becomes concerned as they learn about this "pregnancy pact" with a total of seventeen students being pregnant, and they discuss possible solutions although we don't really see anything happen. My other large criticism of the movie is that many of the girls smoke during their pregnancies, which could harm their unborn children. At other times they appear to take some responsibility during pregnancy, reading up on childbirth and having ultrasounds.
The only time the film seems to question what the girls are doing is during occasional silent moments of each girl sitting alone at home thinking. These provide a good time for the audience to reflect on the events thus far and form their own opinions. As I have seen in many other European films, there are also some interesting establishing shots of buildings such as the school and an apartment building.
DVDTalk only received an advance screener copy of this movie, which may or may not reflect the final product. When/if the retail version arrives the A/V quality will be reviewed in more detail.
IMDB says that 17 Girls was shot in a digital format, but the DVD appeared close enough to film to fool me. The movie is in about 1.85 aspect ratio and has a slight blue tint to it with very few bright colors. The 90-minute movie is given a higher bitrate through the use of a dual-layer disc, and looks generally good aside from some slight compression artifacts in a few dark scenes. A Blu-Ray disc of course would have looked much better, but this title does not appear to be getting a release on that format. Since all the dialogue is spoken in French, English translations are given through electronic subtitles overlaid straight on the picture which cannot be turned off. A font similar to that of the subtitles on most Blu-Ray discs is used.
The audio on the screener disc is a Dolby Digital 2-channel mono track.
No extras related to the movie are included other than a theatrical trailer. The disc also includes a number of trailers for other Strand Releasing titles: Dreams of a Life, Crazy Eyes, Bonsai, Girlfriend, My Worst Nightmare, Unforgivable, Desire (audio for this one is in stereo, the rest are mono), The Women on the 6th Floor and I'm Glad My Mother Is Alive.
Although some of the characters' actions had me shaking my head in disbelief, overall I found 17 Girls to be an enjoyable and well-acted movie. Recommended.