Film Review – ‘The Edge of Seventeen’ (2016)

Billed as a fresh take on the coming of age movie, ‘The Edge of Seventeen‘ seeks to tread similar paths as ‘Juno‘ (2007) and ‘The Way Way Back‘ (2013). They’re big shoes to fill, and though this title has a number of interesting characteristics, it somewhat falls short of this. We follow Nadine (Hallie Steinfeld) when her life both at home and in high school gets more difficult, as her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating her older brother (Blake Jenner).

The script is tight, and the use of voiceover and dialogue are timed well emoting a sense of empathy for the characters. The performances are also strong. Steinfield is convincing as Nadine, who seems to have the weight of the world on her shoulders. We also get a really great performance from Woody Harrelson who plays the teacher Nadine looks up to. He is great, it is then just a pity that his character isn’t given that much screen time. We see him as a little archetypal as the teacher figure in this narrative. When he is given more room on screen at the end of the film, you can’t help but feel it’s too little too late.

The Edge of Seventeen‘ is set in the modern day, and has the milieu of contemporary teenage culture. There’s footage of ‘Futurama’ on the television, the characters await Facebook friend requests, and deliberate over reading receipts on messages. First time director Kelly Fremon Craig has the subject matter sussed. This film will strike a chord with young people growing up now.

In terms of the narrative, there are a few stumbling blocks. What separates this from the likes of ‘Juno’ is the that there aren’t really any major points that the narrative returns to. In ‘Juno’ the narrative “starts with a chair” and then “finishes with a chair” – there are several elements built in to make the story seem satisfyingly circular. Here, however, we do not get similar hints that the characters are changing or remaining the same. The narrative is a little vague on these details.

The soundtrack isn’t anything significant. It doesn’t far deviate from any other teen film at the cinema over the past few years. We do get some songs in flashback such as one by Billy Joel, indicating a reference to the time shift. On another occasion, a cover of ‘Ballroom Blitz’ reflects the characters drinking session. It isn’t too showy, but at the same time lacks some imagination.

Some interesting strands are present in this movie, and it will entertain some audiences. Just don’t go in expecting something along the lines of ‘The Breakfast Club‘ or ‘10 Things I Hate About You‘ (as noted in the trailer).

[rating=3] | Zach Roddis

Comedy, Drama | USA, 2016 | 15 | 27th March 2017 (UK) | Entertainment One UK | Dir.Kelly Fremon Craig | Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Woody Harrelson | Buy: [DVD]

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