Hailee Steinfeld (Pitch Perfect 2, True Grit) delivers a solidly entertaining performance as a seventeen-year-old struggling with her place in the world. Written, directed, and produced by Kelly Fremon Craig, The Edge of Seventeen explores the many factors that have contributed to the state the audience finds Steinfeld’s Nadine at as the film opens: she’s threatening to commit suicide in conversation with her favorite teacher, Woody Harrelson’s Mr. Bruner. How did she get here?
Like most teenagers – or anyone, if we’re honest – Nadine ends up in that moment thanks to all of the things that have happened to her and that she’s done up until that point. The Edge of Seventeen shows that the familial, romantic, and accountability relationships all have an impact on Nadine’s psyche and decision-making. While some of the problems she faces are self-inflicted, much of what she has experienced has been the result of others’ decision-making, too.
Much of Nadine’s ‘problem’ boils back to the death of her dear father, which has ripped apart her relationship (already frail) with her mother (Kyra Sedgwick), who has issues of her own, and her brother (Blake Jenner), who Nadine believes gets everything handed to him. [One rather hilarious example of this is a throwaway conversation where a stranger tells Nadine that she’s like Danny DeVito to her brother’s Arnold Schwarzenegger in Twins.] Her brother’s sudden love affair with Nadine’s best friend (Haley Lu Richardson) acerbates all of her angsty, unhappy feelings.
Equally funny and depressing, The Edge of Seventeen pulls off the coming-of-age tag spectacularly. The audience can understand Nadine’s struggles but they can also see how she frustrates those around her. It’s realistic, just like life, we all have our flaws and our gifts.