“There are two types of people in the world,” Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) muses. Those who radiate confidence their entire life and people like her. Just past the midpoint of her teenage years, young Nadine in confident her life cannot get any worse. As the film opens she marches into school, bursts into her favorite teacher’s classroom, interrupting his lunch break, and dramatically states, “I’m going to kill myself. I thought someone should probably know.”
To be fair Nadine has had a somewhat rough adolescence. Her father passed away a few years prior, and she has just lost her best/only friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) to her disgustingly perfect brother. The only two people she felt actually understood her are now gone, and she’s been left alone in a world of individuals that she can’t connect with.
The story may sound familiar: a coming of age tale of an awkward teen finding themselves in a world where even the simplest social interactions feel like a level taken from Dante’s Inferno. This story has been told many time before, in many different ways. But like Nadine herself, “The Edge of Seventeen” is unique and special. Kelly Fremon Craig, who not only wrote the screenplay but also produced and directed it, brings an authentic voice to all of her characters. The script is careful to never dip more than a toe in predictable tropes, and the underlying tone is one of understanding and hope. Even Nadine’s mother (Kyra Sedgwick), who at first seems dangerously close to falling into the cliched manic single mother role, is given time to show the depth of her character.
Even the best script would be impotent without a cast who competently bring it life. Again, this is another area in which “The Edge of Seventeen” shines. Hailee Steinfeld crafts a character who is completely lovable which makes it even more heartbreaking when she can’t recognize it in herself. Haley Lu Richardson’s role as her best friend is equally charming. It’s easy to empathize with Nadine’s feelings of loss when Richardson is absent through the middle of the film. (But you can catch more of her in our Interview!)
This is a wonderful little film that may fly under the radar for many. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s more of the same. This is a special little gem that teens and adults alike can appreciate.