When you hear this film’s title, the Stevie Nicks song will come to mind. Not just because of the title, but also all through the lyrics. Nadine (Hailee Steifeld), our heroine and focus, is all-alone, and from what has been written about her previously, has been misjudged and treated unfairly.
Nadine is a self-described ‘old soul’ who doesn’t feel part of her generation. Her mother just sees her as difficult and her brother doesn’t seem to care about her existence. The loss of her father, who she was close to, still haunts her and she hasn’t really recovered from his death. Her one ally and friend is Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), who is the calmer, quieter one of the duo and has been by Nadine’s side for years. But when Krista and and her brother Darian (Blake Jenner) start dating, Nadine is thrown into turmoil.
Kelly Fremon Craig, who wrote and directed the film, has said that John Hughes was an influence on the story, which makes sense as the structure of the film itself echoes slightly Hughes’ work. The film doesn’t really have a strong linear plot: there is an introduction to Nadine and the ‘key players’ in her world, then the incident and its fallout. There is also the shy guy, Erwin (Hayden Szeto), who has a crush on Nadine, but she doesn’t pay him much attention. Then there’s Nick, the ‘cool’ hipster guy who she likes, but doesn’t know him. Offering little to no support is her teacher, Mr Bruner (Woody Harrelson) who tolerates her random outbursts for help with straight-faced sarcastic remarks, yet she still sees him as a surrogate father figure.
With all the high-school drama aside, Nadine’s one-to-ones with her teacher are either extremely awkward or heartwarming, and that’s just what the story needed – a break and fresh viewpoint on Nadine’s life. Steinfeld and Harrelson are a brilliant duo, and you can tell they had a lot of fun in these scenes. These scenes are a great contrast to ones Nadine shares with her mother and brother, where there is a constant feeling of unresolved issues floating in the air.
The film neglects to right the wrongs and seems to just wrap up everything with a underwhelming speech from Darian trying and failing to justify his actions, following up with an apology from Nadine that isn’t necessary. Neither Darian nor Krista ever once stop and think to see the situation from Nadine’s side, nor do they apologise for acting so selfishly. Darian is fully aware that Nadine’s only friend is Krista, yet he still decides to ‘take her away’ and never really confirms how he feels about Krista; he merely avoids the question and deflects onto another subject. The real story about Nadine comes soon after Darian and Krista get together. It could be interpreted that Nadine grows up and opens herself up to new possibilities because these two people are hurting her, but it is still not handled fairly or well. Darian even says ‘life isn’t fair’, but what he really means is ‘life isn’t fair for you, so let others have what they want’.
Apart from best friend and brother parts of the story, Nadine navigates through social situations without ease and acts like any other teenager, oblivious to the affections of nice guys and anger to those who just don’t understand her. She has been called flawed, but she isn’t compared to the other characters. She is on the edge from the start, but that’s what being a teenage girl is like.
Dir: Kelly Fremon Craig
Scr: Kelly Fremon Craig
Prd: James L Brooks, Richard Sakai, Julie Ansell, Kelly Fremon Craig
Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner
DoP: Doug Emmett
Music: Atli Örvarsson
Running time: 104 minutes
The Edge of Seventeen is out to Download from Saturday and on DVD from Monday 27th March