Coming of age films are my favourite type of film. They capture the awkwardness of adolescence and they chart the struggles of someone on the cusp of adulthood trying to find their place in the world. They convey a feeling so universal yet unique that you can’t help but empathise with the often flawed protagonist, who almost always ends up being the hero of their own story.
The Edge of Seventeen perfectly encapsulates all those feelings, which is why it’s one of my favourite films. The film follows Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), a teenager whose life - in her own eyes - appears to be going tragically wrong. Sparked by witnessing the death of her father, whom she was close to, Nadine has to navigate life on her own. She has a turbulent relationship with her strict mother and, to make matters infinitely worse, her childhood best (and only) friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) starts going out with her golden-boy brother (Blake Jenner). The ultimate betrayal! She’s guided along the way by a hilarious, yet sarcastic, almost spiritual guide, in the form of her teacher, Mr. Bruner, played by Woody Harrelson (and who wouldn’t want Woody Harrelson to guide them through a hard time?)
There’s also awkward and infatuated Erwin Kim (Hayden Szeto) who makes animated films in his spare time, and deserves more than a quick shout-out. But I don’t want to give too much away! Everyone in Nadine’s family is trying to cope with the death of the one person who held them together, but the way they go about it is totally different. Nadine’s character is the centre of her own universe, but you grow to love and root for her, even as she feels everyone else moving on.
Credit - Everett Collection
The film itself is plagued with the awkward and cringe worthy teenage moments that often feature in such films, but here they often feel more endearing than awful. Alone, Nadine tries to woo over the most popular boy in school, attend a big party and navigate the minefield that is high school lunchtime, all while her life spins gradually out of control. She’s gloriously determined though.
Whilst the dialogue is witty and quick enough to be as funny as any comedy and tragic enough in its unfolding events to be a gritty drama, at its core it remains a mighty coming of age tale. Rest assured, it brings out every recurring theme and symbol of a traditional coming of age tale in the book - pools, a Ferris wheel, a killer soundtrack. Not only is the film pretty enough to end up on a Pinterest board and quotable enough to end up on an edgy circa. 2013 Tumblr page, its essence will stay with you for a pretty long time if you allow it.
Writer and director Kelly Fremon Craig created something which I come back to and enjoy often, and I thoroughly recommend watching whenever you feel like the world is against you. The costumes are also brilliant. I read something once which said that 'Lady Bird', 'The Edge of Seventeen' and 'Eighth Grade' were the ‘Holy Trinity of female coming of age films’ and, with some added 'Booksmart', I can’t help but agree.
Edited by Andriani Scordellis, Film Editor