Movie Review: ‘The Edge of Seventeen’

Director: Kelly Fremon Craig

Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgewick, Haley Lu Richardson, Hayden Szeto, Blake Jenner

Plot: Nadine is a misanthropic 16 year old who is bullied at school and resents her perfect and popular brother. When her one friend and confident begins a relationship with her brother Nadine finds herself spiralling into depression.

Review: Well, this upcoming film…what do you mean it’s been out in the USA for a month? Really?

Damnit. I don’t know why the release schedule has been pushed back for most of the November releases in Australia. We haven’t even gotten Moana yet. So here’s the Aussie preview for Edge of Seventeen.

First positive note, it used to be called Besties and they changed the title. Good move. What we have here is an honest and sometimes brutal look into the mind and life of a modern teenager who is unable to get a grasp on life. I’ll get into the strengths of the film in a moment, because there’s one major issue that casts a shadow over the whole film. Nadine (Steinfeld) is completely unlikable. Yes, it’s sad that she gets bullied and kids suck, but it’s really, really hard to feel sympathy for her because she continuously lashes out at people and refuses to see their perspective. As a member of the audience it means you don’t get invested in her happiness and redemption.


On the other side of the coin – massive points for a realistic portrayal of life as a teenager. Nadine is lost, confused and angry and having lost the only people in her life she felt a connection with she’s flailing for some way to remain grounded. The writing and acting of Nadine is on point and easily the strength of the film. The other characters are equally well written and acted but without sufficient screen time they we don’t get to know them enough to see their perspective.

At the end of the second act Nadine is snapped out of her path of self-destruction by a single outburst of truth bombs from one character that essentially turns her into a better person on the spot. It’s such a sudden switch that it doesn’t feel earned. It’s also strange that it takes her so long to warm up to the nerdy guy showing interest in her because…what’s wrong with him?! She calls him ‘cute’ on their first meet, plus he’s friendly and polite, a talented and committed comic artist, a millionaire and rocks a solid six-pack so…what’s the problem? He’s a bit awkward? It’s a gender reversal of that frustrating trope of the audiences being expected to believe a beautiful woman is a loser because she’s ‘clumsy’.

Ok, it sounds like I’m getting really down on the movie but I did enjoy it. As I’ve said the writing is brilliant, Steinfeld is brilliant in the lead role and carries the film extremely well and it’s one of the most honest looks at modern teens. An unlikeable character and sudden turn around takes the wind out of the sails, and there’s jarring continuity errors throughout the film if that kind of thing bothers you. 


Finally, I especially liked Woody Harrelson as the teacher she often goes to when as a loss, where he is rude, brash and mean yet tries to steer her in the right direction without coddling her (anyone who’s been in my classroom might see why I liked this guy). There is a reveal later in the film where Nadine discovers that the persona she gets in the classroom is not the real person, which is a side of teachers that we never see in the media. It was cool.

Rating: SEVEN out of TEN