If you’re going into this movie thinking you will hear Stevie Nicks’ 1982 song of the same title, be informed that the song, sadly, was not part of the (surprisingly good) soundtrack. They do, however, follow very similar storylines. A tragic death, the intensity of dealing with that loss, and the changes that follow.
First things first: this is a story that we have all heard before, if we haven’t lived it ourselves. Truly, it’s not a movie you trek through the snow to pay $13 to see. It’s the kind of film you curl up on the couch on a cold winters day to watch. It’s the typical coming of age story about a girl who thinks the world is against her only to find that most of her pain is self-inflicted.
Over the course of the movie, the main character Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) must go through the numerous struggles that adolescence has to offer. The audience is drawn in by a character that, at some point in their life, they could identify with. You can see how hard it must be living in your older brother’s shadow. You feel the burn of unnecessary humiliation at the hands of kids who only notice you when they are trying (and succeeding) to hurt you. You understand the heartache of an unrequited love.
Until you stop feeling sorry for Nadine and start to get angry.
You start to see why her brother Darian (Blake Jenner) can’t stand to be around her half of the time, you start to see why her mother (Kyra Sedgwick) all but drags herself through the days and nights. You understand why her best and only friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) would find comfort in the happiness of people who listen to her and don’t look for unfounded reasons to hate their generation.
Honestly, Nadine is a bitter character whose actions only encourage the audience to feel that same bitterness towards her.
Kelly Fremon Craig does a great job in using the central cast of characters to show that people, no matter how well they hide it, are deeply flawed. Life has a natural tendency to be difficult, but at some point we all have to take a step back and stop blaming everyone else for our problems. The Edge of Seventeen is Nadine’s long journey to figuring that out.
Where Nadine seems to always have a hard time, her older brother Darian flows through life with ease. He has no trouble making friends, his relationship with their parents is healthy and respectful, and it could even be argued that Nadine’s best friend likes Darian more than she likes Nadine.
But when their father dies unexpectedly, they are finally on equal ground. No amount of optimism could have prepared Darian for this shock, and there is no wall strong enough that Nadine could put up that this type of pain couldn’t break through. The best either one of them can do is figure out how to cope.
Stuck in her own little world of despair, Nadine doesn’t see how her father being gone has taken its toll on the rest of her family. There is a moment in the film where she is sharing a memory with her brother, and at first it seems like a sweet memory, sad, but full of love.
Nadine takes that sadness, a sadness she and Darian had once shared, and morphs it into something dark and tainted so that she can use it against her brother.
This is the point where you see that Nadine is a girl so tangled up inside of herself that she wouldn’t find a way out if you placed her in front of the exit.
As a viewer you never want to see Nadine get hurt. You want to see her happy, you want her to have the things she wants. But there comes a point where you have to accept that Nadine is so far gone that it is going to take a pretty hard hit to knock some sense into her.
Nadine has done so well at ruining her personal relationships that she no longer has relationships to ruin. In a particularly heartrending scene (there were a few), her brother confronts her about her behaviour and his own pain. And finally, the moment you have impatiently waited for has arrived. The girl who never apologizes for doing what she wants finally has a heartfelt conversation with someone without getting defensive or jumping to conclusions.
Craig has written a scene so raw and real that you feel your heart clench as Nadine shares her pain with her brother. Nadine’s emotions are laid bare and in that moment she is so painfully human and fragile and familiar that the audience sees themselves reflected on the screen in the form of a broken teenage girl.
This movie drags you through the tumultuous events of a typical seventeen-year-old caught up in her own personal hurricane of self-pity and points out all of those little things teens and adults do on a daily basis. We complain about the people who have encountered our worst parts and continue to come back for more. We blind ourselves to the struggles of others just so we can focus in on our own problems and then lash out at people for doing the exact same thing.
This film has you cringing in your seat, wanting to scream at Nadine, “Not everything is about you!”
And then it shouts the same message right back.