The Edge of Seventeen

The Edge of Seventeen 2016 film poster.jpg

High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.

The Edge of Seventeen’ is a superior coming of age movie, featuring an outstanding lead performance from Hailee Steinfeld. Written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, the film largely succeeds because of how grounded and relatable it is and in the way it doesn’t saturate or sugarcoat the experience of growing up. It follows 17 year old Nadine (Steinfeld), a teenage girl who has fallen out with her best friend (Haley Lu Richardson) after she starts dating her older brother (Blake Jenner), whilst also coping with various other crises, some minor and some major, as she goes about her life. She confides in her history teacher about her problems, played by a droll Woody Harrelson in a display where you can’t imagine anyone else in the role.

If there’s a negative to ‘The Edge of Seventeen’, it probably comes in the opening which feels a little too forced and in your face in its attempts to be edgy and a little different, with the flashbacks (whilst serving a purpose) feeling tonally apart from the remainder of the film as it plays out. Fortunately, once the film settles down into the main narrative it becomes a lot better and what plays out is a funny and endearing coming of age comedy/drama. Hailee Steinfeld is really terrific as an ordinary teenage girl, struggling with the challenges of adolescence and the changes it brings as she tries to make her way in the world. One of the things I particularly liked is the dynamic between Steinfeld and Harrelson (who is really just the best) in the approach to the problems Nadine is facing. To her mind they’re big, insurmountable problems; to Harrelson’s teacher, they’re just small blips as you make your way through life, and they’ll be forgotten about in a week. They’re both right to a certain extent and Craig’s script perfectly captures that nuance of how we react to events differently at different points of our lives.

As a character I thought Nadine was pretty great – flawed undoubtedly but she has an edge and Steinfeld’s portrayal made her relatable and easy to root for even when she is perhaps in the wrong. I’ve mentioned Harrelson but there are also strong performances from Kyra Sedgwick as Nadine’s mother and from Hayden Szeto as Erwin Kim, an awkward but sweet admirer of Nadine. It’s pinned together by Nadine’s acerbic narration and a great soundtrack, and I felt it was a really authentic and moving encapsulation of the struggles of youth. Highly recommended!

Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Kelly Fremon Craig

Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick and Hayden Szeto

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