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The Edge of Seventeen (Hailee Steinfeld) - DVD Review

The Edge of Seventeen

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

HAVING made such a strong impression with her debut role in the Coen brothers’ True Grit remake, Hailee Steinfeld repeats the trick in teen drama The Edge of Seventeen, proving yet again that she is one of the most exciting young actresses around at the moment.

As mixed up teen Nadine, Steinfeld gets to convey a maelstrom of emotion in a film that just as notably mixes certain genre conventions with a lot more complexity, while still managing to be dramatic and funny.

We first meet Nadine informing her teacher (Woody Harrelson) that she intends to kill herself, to which he quips – in brilliantly deadpan fashion – that he does too. The reason for her ‘trauma’ becomes clear as the film unfolds via flashback.

Still coming to terms with the loss of her father, Nadine has only one friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), who she now feels has betrayed her by starting to date her seemingly perfect, sports jock older brother (Blake Jenner). The revelation sends her on a self-destructive spiral.

The ensuing film, from first-time writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig, is a genuinely endearing coming-of-age tale that allows you to sympathise with the plight of its lead character without feeling overly manipulated, or wanting to scream ‘grow up’!!!

A lot of the credit for this goes to Steinfeld, whose performance feels natural more than delivered. She can be sweet and naive but also prone to ugly fits of selfish rage, all of which is so clearly [and often painfully] born out of the insecurity (and guilt) she feels over the loss of her dad. It’s a mature, nuanced performance that is further aided (and enhanced) by Craig’s astute script.

And while certain plot beats can be guessed early on, Craig’s script keeps on delivering unexpected delights that enable the film to rise above the norm, especially in the colourful array of supporting players.

Harrelson’s droll teacher, for example, is far removed from the usual father-figure stereotype, thereby making his interplay with Nadine more edgy, while Jenner’s older sibling also proves to be someone far more layered and sensitive than first appearances suggest.

And special mention must also go to Chinese-Canadian actor Hayden Szeto, whose portrayal of smitten fellow student Erwin, is an awkward, yet hugely endearing delight. Szeto, like Steinfeld, invests Erwin with an Everyman quality that is highly relatable.

If we’re being picky, Craig’s film loses points for making its students more affluent than most, with some of their rants and frustrations carrying the whiff of over privilege. The final scenes, meanwhile, arrive a little too neatly packaged and lack the guts of most of what’s come before.

But if you’re looking for a slice of jovial escapism with the ability to make you care, The Edge of Seventeen is a highly recommended charmer of a movie, anchored by an ensemble cast at the top of their game.

Watch the trailer

Certificate: 15
Running time: 104mins
UK Blu-ray and DVD Release: March 27, 2017

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