Going into Edge of Seventeen (ES) I was decidedly dubious. Coming-of-age movies rarely capture the essence that they promise, nor do they deliver a white knuckle nostalgia trip of youth. How anyone ‘comes-of-age’ is always a bittersweet journey which is often challenging to portray, however ES managed to tick a few of my boxes. Hopefully it will tick a few of yours, too.
Written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, ES follows Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) as she storms the battlefield of adolescent life. Feeling like an outcast within her own family and at school, Nadine struggles throughout childhood to find her identity. This becomes harder following a family tragedy, forcing her to unwillingly to tread the path of adulthood.
Despite bringing back my own personal teenage hell, it was also cathartic to see that someone was able to identify common problems within adolescents and offer up practical solutions. Too often we are faced with troubled teens going off the rails and then re-establishing themselves on the straight and narrow towards the end. Nadine on the other hand, represents someone who is still in control –making this movie relatable to many ages.
Nadine makes lots of mistakes throughout and reacts to situations with a devil-may-care attitude, but the heavy drama is lightened with some sharp and witty comedy, sparked by her teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson). The dynamic between the characters is not only delightfully funny, but heart-warming and frighteningly accurate. If anyone has had a stand out teacher who went above and beyond when you got dumped or your friends fell out with you, then hopefully you will watch these scenes with a knowing smile.
While there are positive elements, the overarching message was ever so slightly dampened by witty jibes and occasionally tried too hard to provoke a tear from its audience. As a whole this is one movie you can watch with your grumpy teenager and get something out of it, as opposed to other films of a similar genre that totally exclude the adult perspective.
I was expecting a drama-rich shouting match where the female lead goes off the rails and gets herself into hardcore drugs and unwanted sexual relations.
However, I was pleasantly surprised with how the subject matter was dealt with.