Adolescence — that twilight zone between childhood and adulthood — isn’t easy. It’s messy, confusing and downright frightening. But imagine the amped up intensity if you’re conflicted about your sexuality? That’s what the French drama “Being 17” deals with. It’s a coming-of-age story mixed with the challenge of coming out.

At age 73, director Andre Techine (“Wild Reeds”) has not lost a beat in tapping into what it’s like to be a teenager. Much credit for that goes to screenwriter Celine Sciamma, whose fantastic “Girlhood” was a searing tale of teen self-discovery. The similarly themed “Being 17” is well within her wheelhouse. Two 17-year-old boys, Damien and Thomas, can’t keep their hands — or eyes — off each other, for reasons neither can fully reconcile. First, it’s stolen glances in the classroom or hallway. Then, it turns physical with cheap shots like tripping, elbowing and pushing, until it turns into full-on fisticuffs. They circle each other like prey. Are they motivated by aggression? Rage? Desire?

Set in the French Pyrenees, “Being 17” unfolds over the course of a school year. It’s divided into “trimesters” and begins in wintertime with the snow-covered mountains adding stark beauty and a sense of calm to the raging hormones dominating the screen. Damien is skinny, blonde and smart; the only son of a sweet country doctor (Sandrine Kiberlain) and Army pilot (Alexis Loret), often absent. On the flip side, Thomas is the adopted bi-racial son of dairy farmers (Jean Fornerod and Mama Prassinos). He’s strong, silent and struggles academically. Their push-pull dance is a game of opposites attract.

When Thomas’s mother has to go to the hospital for a while, Sciamma’s script eventually puts the boys together under one roof. Thomas moves in with Damien’s family. Marianne hovers close by with compassion for both, which makes Damien jealous. The plot is shamelessly contrived, especially a tragedy to come, but you can’t help but be moved by Damien and Thomas and their struggles to coexist and copulate. Naturally, there are moments that suggest neither boy is really all that different from the other. Both young actors deliver performances of unexpected depth and complexity. When one says: “I don’t know if I’m into guys or just you,” it speaks volumes to the mysteries of love at any age.

— Dana Barbuto may be reached at dbarbuto@ledger.com or follow her on Twitter @dbarbuto_Ledger.

“Being 17”
Cast: Sandrine Kiberlain, Kacey Mottet Klein, Corentin Fila, Alexis Loret.
(Not rated but contains nudity, mature themes.)
Grade: B+