Review / ‘The Edge of Seventeen’ (MA) ** and a half

THIS is Kelly Freemon Craig’s debut as producer and director and her first feature as writer. 

Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld)

It’s said that people write about what they know. That’s arguable. But “The Edge of Seventeen” has elements suggesting that how Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) behaves might be autobiographical for Ms Craig. A mature male reviewer has little personal knowledge or experience of what’s really happening in the middle years of a girl’s adolescence. 

At school, Nadine’s unpopular. Older brother Darian (Blake Jenner) doesn’t like her. Her father who loved her warmly had a fatal heart attack while driving her to school. Her mother (Kyra Sedgewick) can’t make contact with her. 

Nadine doesn’t lack smarts. Her music and reading preferences are those of earlier times. Class teacher Bruner (Woody Harrelson giving a likeable performance) deflects her anxieties without resolving them.

Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) is her one friend through the early years and would still be until Nadine goes right off her when she finds her in Darian’s bed. As age 17 approaches, the hormones are tickling. She texts Nick (Alexander Calvert) inviting him to share a panoply of erotic excitements with her but when it comes to the crunch, she walks away with her maidenhead intact. 

“The Edge of Seventeen” tries to be convincing about Nadine’s inability to handle that precarious stage in a girl’s life. Sadly, it falls short. This phase can’t go on for ever. Other girls survive it. Friendship with off-beat class-mate Erwin (Hayden Szeto) begins to improve things. And Mr Bruner is available to offer unorthodox solutions to her problems. Hopefully, the light at the tunnel’s end will be bright enough to guide her. But it will be a close-run thing as uncertainty hovers over the film’s end.

At Palace Electric, Hoyts Woden

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