The Edge of Seventeen
dir-scr Kelly Fremon Craig
prd James L Brooks, Kelly Fremon Craig, Julie Ansell, Richard Sakai
with Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, Blake Jenner, Haley Lu Richardson, Hayden Szeto, Alexander Calvert, Eric Keenleyside, Nesta Cooper, Lina Renna, Ava Grace Cooper, Christian Michael Cooper
release US 18.Nov.16, UK 30.Nov.16
16/US 1h39
The Edge of Seventeen
Haters gonna hate: Steinfeld and Richardson

harrelson sedgwick jenner
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Edge of Seventeen This film may follow the basic structure of a teen coming-of-age drama, but its details are unusually earthy and honest. In her directing debut, writer Kelly Fremon Craig gets deep under the skin of a typical young woman. So even if the narrative offers a somewhat easy explanation for her particular brand of angst, it's sharp enough to remain entertaining and resonant.

In Portland, Oregon, 17-year-old Nadine (Steinfeld) feels like she's such a loser that life isn't worth living. Her best pal Krista (Richardson) is hooking up with her annoyingly popular big brother Darian (Jenner), her mother Mona (Sedgwick) is a basket case, and class nerd Erwin (Szeto) is clearly interested in her. Meanwhile, she's crushing on Nick (Calvert), who's just out of juvvie. For a sounding board, she turns to her sardonic history teacher Mr Bruner (Harrelson), because he seems like the only person who might listen to her.

This is about that moment when you realise everything that happens isn't about you. In her case, Nadine's development was interrupted by a major event in her early teens, which feels simplistic plot-wise (especially since her brother, only a year older, seemingly has no issues). But her tortured relationships with her brother and mother ring almost startlingly true. And the peer issues at school refreshingly avoid the usual easy cliches, offering teens who are funny, smart and not nearly as close-minded as we expect.

Steinfeld is blistering in the role, unfurling a barrage of insults before anyone can say a word. Even with her self-involved whining, she's remarkably likeable, because Steinfeld undercuts everything with glimpses of emotion just under the surface. Her scenes with Harrelson are enjoyably barbed, while Sedgwick and Jenner nicely restrain their characters, making sure the audience sees them while Nadine doesn't. Richardson has a great role as Nadine's lifelong pal, although her plot-thread sidelines her. The scene-stealer is Szeto, who nails Erwin's adolescent awkwardness.

Where this goes isn't surprising, so Craig doesn't belabour the point, heading to the end without too much hysteria, as it were. This adds a strong sense of autobiographical authenticity, as if she's making a movie about a situation and people she knows well. In this way, her no-nonsense style of filmmaking is perfectly suited to the material, giving the entire movie a gritty edge, reminding us that there's something in Nadine's journey that all of us can recognise.

cert 15 themes, language, some sexuality 31.Oct.16

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