The Edge of Seventeen review: heartbreakingly funny


Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson.
Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson.

OPENING with a frantic sequence in which Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) marches into her classroom to tell her teacher Mr Bruner (Woody Harrelson) she is going to commit suicide, we rewind to find out how she got to this point.

Has she faced tragedy or is she just being melodramatic?

A little from column A and a little from column B.

Life has been pretty rough for Nadine, who was an awkward child with one friend, picked on by others and whose older brother was favoured by their mum (Kyra Sedgwick).

When her dad, the only other person she could relate to dies, her life hits a major hurdle.

Things get worse when her only friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) and jock brother Darian (Blake Jenner) start hooking up.

As if being a teenager with bad hair and pimples wasn’t hard enough as it was.

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There are familiar elements to Nadine’s story (annoying sibling, cute boys, discovering sex, lame parents), but writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig rises above cliché by giving the character some actual hardships and deep psychological strain that inform her actions that she must overcome.

Without this, and Steinfeld’s mature performance, the character could have been a bratty, one-note annoyance.

Additionally, this coming-of-age story is more than just about pouting teens – it is about seeing things from other people’s perspectives.

The incessant awkward teen stuttering becomes irritating, each actor adopting the same speech pattern, but they are otherwise spot on with their performances, doing their best to match the high bar Steinfeld has set.

Sometimes hilarious and other times scarily accurate in its depiction of adolescent issues, teen trauma has rarely been so heartbreakingly funny.

THE ESSENTIALS

The Edge of Seventeen (M)

Directed by: Kelly Fremon Craig

Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick

Four stars

Review by Julian Wright

In cinemas now