I remember most of seventeen. I spent my final year of high school looking toward the future and feeling extremely uncomfortable with my present. Everything annoyed me back then. Fresh off a breakup with my first boyfriend; I got my first job in retail (yuck), took pleasure in fighting with my mother, and attempted to assert the adulthood that I did not yet possess. The final Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows hit bookshelves a week after my seventeenth birthday, and I spent much of the rest of the year caring only to re-read the entire saga while desperately anticipating my departure to college. Nearly a decade later, it’s bittersweet to look back on that time. I didn’t know it then, but seventeen really was the end of an era for me.
I’m not so removed from my teenage years that I’ve forgotten the struggles and the anxiety that comes along with being a teenager. Admittedly I cringe now when I encounter teenagers on the train or in stores. They’re typically loud and obnoxious almost as if they have to amplify their presence to be recognized. Still, as I roll my eyes and huff under my breath, I remember being exactly in that same space, that feeling of being unsure and stuck in between two versions of yourself. Writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig‘s directorial debut, The Edge of Seventeen gave me that exact same feeling.
Following, seventeen-year-old oddball Nadine (played beautifully by Hailee Steinfeld), we encounter an insecure young woman whose best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson and friendship with a sarcastic teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson) are the only things that are keeping her off the ledge. However, the rug is soon ripped from under her carefully crafted universe when her popular and athletic big brother Darien (Blake Jenner) begins dating Krista.
The newfound relationship disgusts Nadine, and after unsuccessfully trying to force her BFF to choose between their friendship and her brother, she goes spiraling down a path of self-pity and angst; attempting to pull else down. The thing about Nadine is that she’s fairly insufferable for much of the film, but Steinfeld’s performance is so witty, dark and self-deprecating that you can see Nadine’s vulnerable heart despite her attempts to shield it from view. Fremon Craig brilliantly paints a complete picture of Nadine’s life. She’s whiny and annoying yes, but her life certainly hasn’t been all roses either.
After her beloved father’s death when she was 13, Nadine is left with her annoyingly perfect brother and her overbearing mother, Mona (Kyra Sedgwick) whose barely pieced herself back together after her husband’s death. In truth, Nadine has felt very alone since her father’s death, and Krista and Darien’s relationship further exacerbates that feeling for her. Her huffing, puffing, stomping and screaming are just attempts to make herself seen, to shed the cloak of invisibility that has seemingly hovered over her her entire life.
Now in my mid-twenties, I often wanted to shout at Nadine, but I also always rooted for her, especially when she inadvertently sends a stalkerish and cringeworthy message to the school bad boy who has long last been the object of her desire. After all, this is a moment and a place that nearly all of us have been stuck in at one point or another.
The thing about being stuck between adolescence and adulthood is that you have to do uncomfortable things and make insane choices to move forward, and Nadine does that with gusto. Growing up is painful like it’s rough AF. However, The Edge Of Seventeen is a reminder of where we’ve come from and just how much we’ve matured. After all, when you’re seventeen-years-old, everything is a super huge insane big deal, and it’s lovely to look back on the other side of that and realize, you didn’t know sh*t.
The Edge Of Seventeen premieres Friday, November 18, 2016.