Seventeen (Diecisiete) is charming, original and honest, a touching story of the meaning of family, loyalty and learning how to fail.
Seventeen (Netflix), also known as Diecisiete, tells the story of a troubled young boy named Hector during his time in a juvenile detention center, where he befriends and trains a scruffy little dog named Sheep. Once Sheep is adopted on the outside Hector escapes the detention center on a mission to track down his ‘stolen’ companion. With the help of his older brother Ismael, they travel the country with their dying grandma in a fight against all odds to find the only good thing Hector has ever known. An endearingly honest ‘quest’ turns into a lesson of honesty, loyalty, and frankness as the brothers come to terms with loss, grief and stolen years.
To begin Seventeen (Diecisiete) is remarkable, the movie is subtle and unique, delivering a spectacularly quaint and honest depiction of the realities of life. This film is a coming of age story disguised within a quest narrative; each character is artistically flawed and unreliably human. Seventeen is less about the relationship Hector has with his dog but rather the one he needs to fix with his brother and by extension his entire family. The audience are given the impression from the start that Hector is from a troubled background, luckily no time is wasted filling in the details, giving audiences a clean slate to fill in the blanks as we go. This type of storytelling rejects spoon feeding and the lack of exposition ensures Seventeen is full to the brim with quality written content that lives in the moment.
The script, written by Daniel Sánchez Arévalo, is witty, clever and full of humility. The relationship between the brothers is curated with subtlety and finesse. Consistently audiences will have their heartstrings pulled as they fall in love with the raw nature of being between a rock and a hard place. Hector is a loving, heartfelt and loyal teen with a blatant disregard for the world of law or morals as long as it doesn’t affect him or his grandma. Ismael is an impatient and frustrated compulsive moaner, he sees the world as a place of disparity and pain. The two come together like chalk and cheese before ultimately remembering what it means to be family, what it means to fight for your brother and protect those you hold dear. The narrative is surprisingly fresh and moving, Daniel Sánchez Arévalo brings an exceptional likeness to the cast; there are no villains, no bad guys, just people trying to get by.
The cast should be highly commended for their performances, totally capturing the essence of a dysfunctional family. The cast shows a unique understanding of the comfortable behaviors and gestures reserved exclusively for relatives whilst also demonstrating quite clearly they have become estranged. Hector is played by Biel Montoro. Montoro used this opportunity well as his talent and attention to detail are at the forefront in his depiction of the matter-of-fact, troubled youth. Nacho Sánchez plays brother Ismael and offers the movie a complex character that is struggling internally as he comes to terms with growing older and accepting a growing responsibility to be mature. On the other hand, the captivating and moving performances can not make up for Seventeen (Diecisiete) being a little predictable in some ways, as purposeful camera shots are not so subtly shot in a way to ‘hide’ certain details. Details of which audiences will surely guess if they only think for one moment; a small fault but a worthy mention nevertheless.
Overall, Seventeen (Diecisiete) is a heartwarming adventure story that will soften the hardest hearts and offers audiences a frank look into a highly relatable dysfunctional family. Seventeen really does offer a voice to all, giving characters a chance to share their stories and vulnerabilities. The movie joyfully shines a light on the most morbid of scenarios with a practical and ‘real’ comedy that humbles the most cynical of minds. Truly the movie is about unconditional love, it is about how material means very little and in the end, we all try to impress, we all try to get by and eventually we all die. It is not only a coming of age story but a story of how honesty is the best policy and there will always be a time and place for understanding and patience. If you are looking for a truly soft and emotional watch, then give Seventeen a go, it will win your heart and you may even feel a little more grateful for the life you lead.
Maggie has been a film critic for Ready Steady Cut since 2018. Maggie gained a BSc in Film Production and Technology leading to her most notable credit for the production designer for a short film screened as part of the London Film Festival line up.