The Edge of Seventeen

Like most teenagers, the film is a bit overdone, but it never detracts from its strength.

the-edge-of-seventeenUnlike such average films such as Doctor Strange and Suicide Squad, The Edge of Seventeen is an intriguing film dying in the theater. It is a movie that is best summed up by the Who’s classic hit “Baba O’Riley”, where they focused on a teenage wasteland.

Director Kelly Fremon Craig’s film centers on a 17-year-old girl lost in life’s transition. Her name is Nadine, and she views the future with pessimism, the present with disgust and the past as totally unmemorable if it wasn’t for the tragic death of her father. While she lives here on Earth, she is a teenager lost in space.

Hailee Steinfeld stars as Nadine, and she brings the strength displayed in her Oscar nominated role in True Grit (2010). She believes that her mother’s (Kyra Sedgwick) only interest is her older brother Darian (Blake Jenner), and here you have a mother/daughter acting like strangers in a strange land.

On top of that, Nadine finds little interest in high school. Her only true friend, Krista, played with great style by Haley Lu Richardson, is perceived as abandoning her as her only confidante when she and her rejected brother form a relationship.

As Nadine struggles to find the slightest meaning in her existence, she constantly approaches the only teacher she admires, Mr. Bruner, a caustic man who gives her space to develop. Woody Harrelson gives his best performance in years as her mentor, and he listens patiently to Nadine’s rejection of life while forcing her to confront her ridiculous approach to human existence.

While Nadine finds herself attracted to a student who ignores her, she ends up gradually getting to know Erwin (Hayden Szeto), a student from South Korea. Though he is attracted to her, Erwin doesn’t have the slightest idea of how to connect. Their evolving relationship adds to the joy you will experience from this fine film.

While teenagers, particularly young girls, are likely to embrace this caustic movie, it is wise to remember that it carries an R rating. It is at times vulgar and profane while covering some largely regrettable sexual encounters, but it is likely that most teenagers either have gone down that path or have heard about it from others.

When Nadine reaches her deepest moment of despair, she tells Mr. Bruner that she is contemplating suicide. After reading her short essay where she describes waiting at death’s door, he simply advises her to stop using “run-on sentences” in her essays. It is a meaningful, funny moment that occurs on multiple levels that define the inherent strength of this engaging film.