Films focusing on ordinary teens-those who don’t fall in love with vampires or are selected for the Hunger Games-have been hard to find these past couple of years. Thankfully, Edge of Seventeen focuses solely on the life of ordinary Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), an awkward, overly dramatic seventeen-year-old who feels like the entire world is against her. Still struggling with a past trauma, the sudden relationship between her only friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), and her obnoxiously perfect brother (Blake Jenner) just about sends her over the edge.
Director and writer, Kelly Fremon Craig, perfectly captures the essence of being a teenager in this day and age. Nadine feels completely misunderstood by her self-absorbed mother (Kyra Segdwick), completely ignored by bad-boy Nick (Alexander Calvert), and completely clueless when it comes to handling nice-guy Erwin’s (Hayden Szeto) obvious crush on her. Through her script, Craig refuses to patronize any of these common teenage issues while also understanding that none of them are completely earth-shattering.
Steinfeld perfectly captures this balance in her performance. I felt sympathy for her throughout, even in her most self-centered, absurd moments. Her quick wit and truthful honesty about what she’s going through helps to keep the film from becoming melodramatic and makes her character more enjoyable. Each actor seemed to fit the role well, with all of them bringing a different dynamic to the film as a whole. In particular, Nadine’s love-hate relationship with her history teacher, Mr. Burner (Woody Harrelson), let me know that Nadine is not entirely alone, as many teens feel.
Likewise, the biggest strength of the film is how relatable it for teens in today’s world. The abrupt end to fierce, strong friendships that began on the playground impacts nearly every teen at some point in their life. Being able to reach people so easily through social media can have consequences, as Nadine and others learn. Szeto’s Erwin experiences how the phrase “nice guys finish last” unfairly applies to high school dating. All of these experiences lead viewers on an emotional journey and may cause them to look back on their own teenage selves.
While the film is likely more geared towards teenage girls, teenage boys and adults alike would likely enjoy the it for the humor and relatability. The film’s “R” rating may drive some away, but the rating is mostly earned by Nadine’s blunt nature and language during her outbursts. Even though it runs around two hours, the film is paced well and audiences will become invested in Nadine’s story. They may even want the film to be longer by the end, as I did.
Nonetheless, Edge of Seventeen met and surpassed every expectation I had for it. Every aspect, from the music to the characters to the setting, perfectly matched the film’s shifting tone and rollercoaster of emotions. Even though in high school it may feel like the world is ending some days, it’s important to show teens that it is in fact not. Finding people that listen can make all of the difference and Seventeen understands that even though it’s hard, it’s doable, and that you need to just take a step back from the edge to get there sometimes.
Written by Mallory Forney