One of the best portraits of gay teen life on screen, “You’ll Get Over It,” was originally produced for French television. Given the frank depiction of teenage sexuality—and frequent frontal nudity—it is unimaginable that anything in this vein, much less of this quality, would ever be made for American television, even cable. The theatrical film “Edge of Seventeen” comes closest in caliber.
For this reason alone, audiences should rush out to welcome this important coming of age drama.
Seventeen-year-old Vincent (Julien Baumgartner) has a perfect high school life—he gets good grades, excels on the swim team, and has a beautiful girlfriend, Noémie (Julia Maraval). His parents, friends, teachers, and coaches respect him. In fact, all the kids on the swim team and throughout the school look up to Vincent as a role model.
What everyone does not know—and what Vincent is terrified to tell them—is that he is gay.
When another student, Benjamin (Jérémie Elkaïm of “Come Undone”) arrives in school, however, Vincent finds himself drawn to the stranger. The two young men talk and flirt, and eventually Vincent makes a pass at Benjamin, who dismisses the kiss. But, later Benjamin says something to other students that prompts someone to pen graffiti “outing” Vincent. Within moments, the school star is ostracized by his teammates, and berated by his girlfriend.
The ramifications of the graffiti comprise the crux of this tender, heartfelt film, and “You’ll Get Over It” handles Vincent’s crisis with aplomb. Vincent is reluctant to tell his parents about his troubles at school, but his shiftless older brother Regis (Antoine Michel) happily blurts it out over dinner at home. The parents’ reaction—concerned and mystified about the backlash their son faces—is terrific, and helps set the stage for Vincent’s achieving a measure of self-acceptance.
The film makes its best points about how other people react to Vincent’s situation. One of his teachers is reluctant to hold out a hand for Vincent, who is in noticeable despair, but his swimming coach provides him with the support he needs. In the film’s most gratifying scene, the coach tells Vincent why he must continue to fight against adversity and work at breaking stereotypes.
If this appears preachy, or if “You’ll Get Over It” sounds like an After-School Special, it is anything but. The film raises interesting questions about teenagers and the choices they face and make in life. Vincent already has a friend, Bruno (Nils Ohlund), with whom he has an erotic relationship at the time he makes his advance on Benjamin, and the change in dynamics between these two as the result of Vincent’s outing is well presented.
Vincent transforms himself, and surmounts his mixed feelings about being gay on his own terms.
Vincent’s friendship with Noémie is beautifully handled. Noémie reacts selfishly to news that Vincent is gay, and yet he confides in her, treating her like a sister. The reactions of both are realistic, and “You’ll Get Over It” deserves praise for giving both characters their due, not patronizing either of them, or the audience for that matter.
Director Fabrice Cazeneuve shoots much of the film’s action in close-up with a hand-held camera, which lends added intimacy to the story. If the film has a flaw, it is that it ends a bit too neatly and abruptly. Viewers may find themselves wanting to spend more time with the characters.
The performances are first-rate. Baumgartner is excellent as Vincent, and his expressions—whether in masking the pain he feels or in trying to suppress a smile—are wonderful. Elkaïm is also notable in the pivotal role of Benjamin, and Julia Maraval lends fine support as Noémie.
“You’ll Get Over It” may tell a familiar story, but it does so very eloquently. Never sentimental or sappy, this is a life-affirming queer film. Don’t miss it.