Made with palpable (and perhaps too much) empathy for its subject, “Seventeen” eventually gels into a moving and candid documentary about a rebellious, Rouen-based mechanic. Veteran documaker and part-time d.p. Didier Nion (“Voyages, voyages”) initially sounds, from his off-camera position, like an all-in-one shrink, big brother and guidance counselor, though film later edges more into the participant-observer tradition. However, long, slow passages unobtrusively recording protag’s daily activities, and film’s over-oblique approach in the opening 30 minutes, will dampen theatrical prospects.
Jean-Benoit Durand is a bright but disruptive kid. Bulk of pic follows him in his 17th year, as he struggles to keep a job as an apprentice at a local garage, where his lack of concentration and defiance of authority rub his boss and co-workers the wrong way. Gradually, as Durand opens up more to Nion, it transpires just how damaging his background has been. Jean-Benoit’s g.f., Helena, a quiet but doggedly loyal girl his own age, gives him the love his own family can’t: Passages showing the two young lovers have a more poetic quality. Overall look is gritty and hand-held.