Today: July 18, 2024

The Edge of Seventeen

Being a teenager sucks. It doesn’t matter whether you are a jock, a nerd, the overachiever or the kid in the back no one will talk to because they smell a little bit. It’s something John Hughes taught us with simple and honest laughs in a host of coming of age high school comedies. But for many of us it wasn’t a case of taking off a pair of glasses to woo the good looking person at school. It was something of a nightmare. It is therefore cathartic that The Edge Of Seventeen addresses this head on.

Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) is your regular introvert high schooler. For much of her life she’s only had the one friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) and lived in the shadow of her older brother Darian (Blake Jenner). So when Krista and Darian hook up Nadine goes into self-destruct mode. Further alienating her already estranged mother (Kyra Sedgwick) and ignoring the advances of lovelorn Erwin (Hayden Szeto) Nadine’s only real solace is found in her teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson) who offers her a paternal shoulder to cry on. But with Nadine’s behaviour becoming increasingly hard for her family to stomach she runs the risk of spiralling too far.

Nadine isn’t a likable character. She’s spoilt, self-centred and aggressive. So far, so text book millennial but where The Edge Of Seventeen really works is in creating a sense that there is a little bit in Nadine in all of us, especially but not exclusively at that key stage in life. So while you won’t always like Nadine and her selfish behaviour the genius of Kelly Fremon Craig’s script is that it’s always relatable. Right down to the twists and turns the film takes.

Because for most of us there is a belief that we had it harder at school than the rest of them. What The Edge Of Seventeen does so wonderfully is paint a realistic idea that all teenagers are in a constant state of conflict with themselves. It is perhaps a sign of the times that the modern teenager coming of age drama is able to include scenes of fumbled and disastrous sex but Craig handles them never in an aggressive or uncomfortable manner but rather a sense of awkward reminiscence. Even the scenes of Nadine catching her best friend and brother going at it feel smile inducingly aware of that experience where an overly keen friend forgot, or rather didn’t care, to lock the door.

All the performances are great. Harrelson in particular playing the nonchalant teacher with a lazy grace that makes you wish all teachers were like him. But the film is carried by Steinfeld. Vulnerable and deploying a pinpoint level of sarcasm to mask her insecurities it is a perfectly gauged performance that treads a fine line between being irritating yet funny.

Like the acne that plagues all teenagers, The Edge Of Seventeen is often painful, frequently funny and, scratch beneath the surface, filled with an honest bit of pus that resembles any high school experience.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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