Think your life sucks? “Join the club,” says The Edge of Seventeen.
Nadine, the main character played by Hailee Steinfeld (yes the one who sings about masturbation), is a socially awkward teenager, who, surprise, surprise, is seventeen. Objectively, Nadine’s life is pretty miserable. She lost her father when she was still quite young and was left with her mother, Mona, and her brother, Darian, who Nadine doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with. Yet, throughout all of this, Nadine’s best friend Krista is always there for her. That is, until Nadine finds Krista in bed with Darian. In a fit of rage, Nadine breaks off her friendship with Krista. What follows is a story of self-discovery and coming of age that deserves a place among other great coming of age movies such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012).
The movie tackles issues that concern high school students and addresses how sometimes we may feel alone and misunderstood. It’s also a cautionary tale against becoming too absorbed in those same issues. Throughout the film, Nadine slowly makes a realization about those around her—everyone has their own mountains to climb, and there is always more than meets the eye. In this day and age, most teen centered films involve either the supernatural or some unexplained and haphazard “love at first sight” romance with little to no character development. Chasing the commercial success of Twilight and it’s ilk, the YA scene has become saturated with melodramatic movies that serve to cheapen the genre and fail to satisfy their audience.
The Edge of Seventeen is a breath of fresh air in an increasingly convoluted genre,bringing the focus of YA productions back to where it should be: the actual life of teenagers and all the crap that comes along with it. Romance is considered a subplot in the film. It’s very obvious that Nadine is nowhere near ready for a committed relationship; instead the plot revolves around Nadine’s struggle with her family and her place in a world where she doesn’t feel she quite belongs. The film’s characters have a depth to them rarely seen nowadays—instead of portraying Krista and Darian as selfish jerks, the film shows them in a state of caring for Nadine but caught between their obligation to her and their mutual affection. Ultimately, the plot rises above the level of other teen-targeted films because of its authenticity and emotional rawness.
The director, Kelly Fremon Craig, does an excellent job of capturing the confusion that teenagers feel in high school, because, let’s face it, no one knows what they’re doing; The true genius of The Edge of Seventeen is that it captures this sense of confusion and anxiety, and puts it on screen while making it as lighthearted as it is bittersweet ——just like growing up.