A car pulls up suddenly in a high school car park and a young woman all but runs against the crowd, moving swiftly through the corridors before turning in classroom, pulling up a chair and telling her history that she is thinking of killing herself and that she though someone ought to know.
It’s not your average start to a coming-of-age film, but The Edge of Seventeen isn’t a run of the mill teen comedy. Nadine (Hailee Steinfield) is a loner, with only her best friend of twelve years Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) to talk to. That is, however, until Krista starts dating Nadine’s older, and more popular brother Darian (Blake Jenner), and Nadine’s stability and happiness begins to crumble.
If this might sound melodramatic, the loss of a friend leading to a complete meltdown, then The Edge of Seventeen rejects this narrative of the hysterical teenage girl. Nadine is shown as suffering with depression and had previously been prescribed medication, and her mother Monda (Kyra Sedgwick) isn’t an entirely stable force, opening preferring Darian over her young daughter, simply because she is too complicated.
As Nadine’s world begins to fall down around her, she finds an unwilling confidante in her history teacher Mr Bruner (Woody Harrelson, as brilliantly gruff and sardonic as always) who reluctantly listens as Nadine spills her soul.
Steinfield’s intriguing mixture of vibrant indifference and vulnerability allow for Nadine to be more that just a one dimensional character, yes, she is difficult and spiky and says things to hurt people, but underneath you see a young girl who is struggling with more than just ‘high school’ drama. She has this face that allows expressions to pass through so clearly and yet fleetingly, as she tries to keep up the perception that nothing troubles her.
It’s also funny, landing lines comparing a six year old to a “small, elderly gentleman”, and a scene involving a explicit text that is read out by the aforementioned Harrelson as a particularly dry history text. Director Kelly Fremon Craig brings out the best in all her actors, and the younger cast are able to play off the more seasoned actors.
The Edge of Seventeen is a film that seemed to miss out on a big buzz on it’s release three years ago, but hopefully by streaming on Netflix it will begin to make waves and develop into the sleeper hit it deserves. It’s up there with Easy A as one of the best, and smartest coming of age films of recent years.