Inspired by true events and screening as part of the TIFF Next Wave Film Festival, 17 Girls is the story of a group of teen girls who decide to all get pregnant at the same time. Camille (Louise Grinberg) is the first of the group to find out she’s pregnant. Fear is her first thought, but her reaction changes as she begins to think about having someone who will love her unconditionally forever, something she seems to lack in her own family. One by one, her friends get caught up in the idea that having a baby will change their lives for the better. They make a pact that all of them will become pregnant and live together for support and to share in the responsibility that they’re obviously not ready for.
Raising a daughter myself, I’ll have to admit that this film stirs up some fear in my mind. Even more surprising is the fact that this is based on real events, only showing just how possible this could be. We’ve all been there before, thinking that we’re the ones who know best while ignoring any advice our parents give us. It’s just a fact of life, one that becomes somewhat humorous when we become adults and look back on things. Directors Delphine Coulin and Muriel Coulin do a great job of capturing that exact attitude. None of the girls really think about the consequences that come after having kids. All they can do is dream of the great times they’ll have living together, making their own rules, and being together forever.
It’s not just the attitude of the teen girls that the directors capture so well, but the reasons why they think getting pregnant is a good idea. Through a series of silent scenes, we see each girl sitting in their room. They look lonely, bored, and sad. Once they begin thinking about being pregnant, you can see their mood change. Suddenly they’re staring dreamily into space, big smiles across their face. The thought of being with a group of friends, all on their own against the world, gives them a purpose. When they finally get pregnant, things are back to the way they started with a group of lonely and sad-looking girls, alone in their rooms. Separately, they realize that things aren’t going to work out, but together, the dream is kept alive by Camille.
It’s a very quiet story with a feeling of dread running through it. It’s possible that viewing the film from an adult perspective is what gives it that doomed feeling. There’s no possible way that things can work out properly. As adults, we understand that. Teenagers may start with a different opinion. I’m sure this film will do a lot to change that. Having children isn’t a bad idea, it’s the timing that has to be right. There’s a suggestion in the film that the girls may be doing this in response to the economic downturn the city they live in faces, but I think that’s way off the mark. The idea of having kids can do some strange things to a person. The initial thoughts are of the happiness you’ll experience. It’s when the reality starts to set in that happiness is the last thing anyone is thinking of. 17 Girls portrays that perfectly. From the loneliness of the teens, to the dreamy ambition of pregnancy, and finally, the reality of the entire situation. Delphine and Muriel Coulin make it easy to connect with the characters because so many of their problems have been our problems.