Review: The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

It’s never a good time to be a teenager. Ever.

by Alejandro Turdó

Kelly Fremon Craig is a writer and director whose younger years aren’t too far away if you think about it. She’s barely 31. Maybe that’s the reason why her work resembles teenage angst so accurately.

Her script for Post Grad (2009) already shined a light over that troublesome phase we all go through. In 2016 she made her directorial debut with The Edge of Seventeen, a wry dramedy involving the mishaps of 17-year-old Nadine, played by the talented Hailee Steinfield.

The story follows Nadine’s youthful ups and downs, and the way her world turns upside-down when her only friend and confidante starts dating her older brother and highschool heartthrob named Darian (Blake Jenner). Nadine’s father passed away a couple of years ago and her anxious mother can barely handle herself, so more often than not her teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson) becomes the sole recipient of the girl’s concerns.

Fremon Craig does a smart move by altering the chronology of the story line, starting almost at the middle, going backwards and using the third act to come back to the present time to expand the main conflict. Her script is a remarkable step up in contrast with the more girlish and bubblegum spirit shown in Post Grad. This time around, even though the comedy layer never exits the frame completely, the contrivances of the teenage years in the 21st century are represented with extreme accuracy: the sexting, the social pressure, the desintegrated traditional family, and of course the omnipresence of social networks on everyday banalities.

Hailee Steinfeld’s portrayal of Nadie is also top notch. Her ability to capture teenage essence on almost every scene is remarkable. From a hysterical reaction to a maniacal laugh and a crushing anguish, she seems to always be in perfect control of the character.

The excitement after the film’s premiere at the 2016 Toronto Film Festival seems well deserved, specially when considering how far away directors usually are when it comes to internalize the reality of teenagers. This time around Fremon Craig hit the right spot channeling a John Hughes vibe with a twist of cynicism, carrying to the screen an updated feel of the tribes and tribulations of everyday teenage living.


Alejandro TurAle / Writer (CABA, Argentina – 1982) Ale got his degree in Image & Sound Design at Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA) and is also a Technician in Audiovisual Post-Production. For year’s he’s been a critic for EscribiendoCine and A Sala Llena, a certified Rotten Tomatoes critic and a Redactor of Digital Content. He talks film at http://www.radioborder.tv.

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