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The Edge of Seventeen

You're only young once... is it over yet? 

Year: 2016 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig 
Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Kyra Sedgwick, Woody Harrelson, Hayden Szeto, Alexander Calvert  
An image from The Edge of Seventeen

It’s the perfect coming of age film, especially when streaming services and cinemas have been pumped full of the formulaic and out of touch dross in the past decade. Nadine is a sixteen year old high schooler who’s never quite come to terms with the loss of her father some four years previous, has a strained relationship with her mother and her brother, and who thinks the only person in the whole world who cares about her is her best friend, Krista. Until Krista starts dating Nadine’s brother, that is. It’s a concept that could very easily be over-dramatic and poorly handled by lesser writers and producers, but somehow, it works here.

Nadine isn’t, at any point, presented as infallible, and that makes her all the more likeable. Her struggles are small in scale, with consequences that impact the small cast of family and friends around her. There aren’t any unnecessarily giant set pieces or the dreaded high school prom, which is refreshing in any drama that includes high-school relationships. The tight restraint here makes it a wonderful and emotional ride to be on, but the cringe from some of Nadine’s actions (like messaging Nick in the park) are punctuated by the wonderfully refreshing humour that Nadine and her teacher, Mr Bruner (played by Woody Harrelson) have in the classroom.

Brilliant performance and tight script aside, however, this film remains one of my favourites because it feels so honest of actual adolescent experience. Things that you can handle maturely as an adult (such as your best friend and brother dating) feel like the end of the world when you’re sixteen. Nadine’s pessimistic outlook and her feeling of being alone in the universe manages to capture the feeling of teenage angst and present it near perfectly on the screen. And, not to mention, the ending doesn’t fix everything, or go over the top with resolving the issues – these small issues have small steps towards solutions, that will need further steps after the credits have stopped rolling in our universe.

I will continue to indulge in this film whenever I need a comfort film to fall back on - and remind myself that the issues that feel huge right now, will soon be a left behind me.

Sueda Oktay

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Screenings of this film:

2016/2017 Spring Term (digital)
2022/2023 Summer Term (digital)