‘Being 14’: Reviewed by Julia Sansone @sansberry

A French film (86 mins, directed by Hélène Zimmer). Premiering at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) through Next Gen.

For more information visit http://miff.com.au/program/film/being-14 

‘Being 14’ is a raw, honest and most definitely an unfiltered account of the modern day teenage experience. In this film we observe Sarah, Jade and Louise, three middle-class suburban schoolgirls explore the notions of relationships, sex, family, partying, friendship and most of all, self-acceptance.

A French film directed by Hélène Zimmer, it is the combination of the intricate details of the main characters and the environment they live in that combine to make a truly meaningful and memorable account. Cigarettes and a picturesque French town, staple motifs in any French film, play an important part in this story.

There is a seamless creative cinematic technique throughout the film whereby the seasons of the weather are aligned to the main characters and their friendship, highlighting the fragility, futility and ever changing nature of the l4 year old lifestyle.

‘Being 14’, contrary to the title, will be best appreciated by 16-21 year olds because of its strong language, drug use and overall mature content, presented relentlessly from the first few minutes of the film.

Despite this, the film’s ferocity allows the audience to reflect on an age that is simultaneously delicate, brutal, emotional and dramatic, perhaps also serving to remind viewers of their own past or present self, identifiable through the naïve and innocent characteristics of the characters.

There is this constant conflict while watching ‘Being 14’ to either be repelled by the actions of the girls or instead, feel deeply sympathetic. Witnessing the constant and insurmountable pressures each girl experiences from an outside perspective provides for an understanding about the reasons behind the façade they mask themselves with.

As the film progresses, we learn that underneath the outspoken and aggressive identities the girls shield behind are sensitive and conflicted adolescents simply trying to cope with the mid-teen existential crisis amongst family, sexual, social and school pressures.

This film also explores the new age of youth interaction where technology and its crucial relationship with teenagers. From texting to online bullying, ‘Being 14’ is truly a reminder of the often harsh and unforgiving pressures in life, perpetuated by the constant access of technology – a problem any teen can relate to today.

However amongst all this darkness is an occasional light in the life of each girl. Whether it be a caring friend, love interest or a patient and loving grandmother, viewers are reminded that although brimming the cusp of maturity, these girls can still enjoy the innocence and joy of their age separate to the pressures that often shackle them.

‘Being 14’ is an intimate and personal account of the life of three teenage girls, and by the end of the film you feel truly and deeply engrossed in the story as if you are a fourth member of the group. Understanding that despite the often dysfunctional and emotional rollercoaster that is the girl’s friendship, it is each other’s company that allows them to withstand the hardships of their lives.



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