High school films have never been my cup of tea, so naturally I would have wanted to skip The Edge of Seventeen – only to have been proven wrong the moment I actually watched the film for myself and it hit home even more from then onward. Kelly Fremon Craig’s directorial debut is not a teen film, it’s a film about teenagers overcoming a sense of themselves and finding comfort, one that hits on many more authentic notes especially in catching on awkwardness that arises when one is at the point where they must free themselves from control and become more independent – something I caught onto rather quickly, and from there on I knew I would enjoy The Edge of Seventeen much more than I initially expected.
Hailee Steinfeld stars as Nadine Byrd, an awkward high school junior living through a state of emotional distress. She is best friends with Krista, whom she has remained together with since the second grade. She lives with an older brother, a self-centered all-star who is the favourite of their mother, often neglectful of Nadine. Initially was skeptical because this sort of setup can go down a path of being as self-proud of their own quirks but it was never the case in The Edge of Seventeen – for every second of its running time ran with authenticity about the experiences. I’m speaking as one who remained introverted through most of his own high school years, but if this didn’t hit many beats close to home, I wouldn’t have suspected the impact would be this big.
What The Edge of Seventeen does so perfectly well is capture a sense of authenticity within one experience, and within the world that Kelly Craig creates for her film it soon feels like it can create a universal effect not only limited towards those in the same fields as Nadine. I’m within my own final year of high school and uncertainty never has hit me harder than it does right now for what is set to come afterward because I’ve remained introverted through most of my life and when I saw The Edge of Seventeen something about Nadine’s personality sparked so much towards me, in a way that I figured I would have wanted to change the direction I’m headed towards if I still retain within this awkward and self-absorbed positioning.
Yet it’s not only within the authenticity of the world in The Edge of Seventeen where such a film succeeds – it would be from Nadine herself. It isn’t only within the fact that Hailee Steinfeld is playing Nadine to the best of her own ability but it would be how Craig works around her character arc. She is not just any ordinary teenager living inside of an increasingly uncomfortable experience as things only go downhill all the more, it all perfectly captures how uncomfortable it can become when oneself isn’t ready to move outside of their own comfort zone. Craig, through a brilliantly written script and a careful eye behind the camera, allows for nothing but the very best arising from how she explores what adolescents would be feeling at a critical moment of their life, and it all comes out with a powerful blow.
Many of the supporting performances aside from Steinfeld are great enough, for Woody Harrelson offers his best as a troubled if well-meaning teacher trying to bring his own support for Nadine. Kyra Sedgwick and Blake Jenner do well on their own ends too, but I feel something more could have come with Haley Lu Richardson for she never seemed to ring much of an impact within her own arc – which was never nearly as interesting as that of Nadine’s. And given what sort of impact her character has on the story as she is Nadine’s best friend, I feel like much more could have come out from her part because something on her end seemed missing in order to create the sense of meaning that I would have desired out of the story being told. It was from the moment when she started dating Nadine’s brother where it seemed she was only turning into a plot device rather than another character for after that, we never get much to grasp about herself.
Regardless of a small, yet growing qualm I had with The Edge of Seventeen, I can only implore people all the more to see it. A sharply funny and well-meaning comedy-drama about the awkwardness of the adolescent experience playing upon authenticity as much as it can – there was only so much more to come out from how it felt so universal all throughout. I was a bit unsure what to make of the way it appeared at first, but I saw the James L. Brooks involvement and thought maybe I should go ahead and give it a shot. It paid off really well, and surprised me out of the blue. The Edge of Seventeen is funny, honest, heart-warming, all I would ever want out of a film about these experiences. I only wish I could have found this in more high school films, whether it be from the so-called classics or modern-day ones – because they generally never find their appeal to my tastes.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via STX Entertainment.
Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig
Screenplay by Kelly Fremon Craig
Produced by James L. Brooks, Richard Sakai, Julie Ansell, Kelly Fremon Craig
Starring Hailee Steinfeld, Blake Jenner, Haley Lu Richardson, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, Hayden Szeto
Release Year: 2016
Running Time: 99 minutes