Regardless of age, any viewer can find a character or a message within this film that resonates with them. Personally, I relate to Nadine in more ways than I care to admit. Her insecurities, teenage existential dread, and self-loathing are something that I struggled with in high school and still do on occasion today. Steinfeld portrays an imperfect character who, because her story is such a reflection of negative experiences and feelings you may have experienced in high school, you root for. Nadine can be stupid and gets in her own way more often than not, which is frustrating because you can see that in yourself. Her character is painfully true-to-life, especially for those of us who have only recently entered young adulthood.
The family dynamic exemplified in the film, though demonstrated by a mother with an older son and a younger daughter, can pertain to any number of different models of families. Nadine’s mother Mona (Kyra Sedgwick) is just as confused by Nadine’s attitude and actions as Nadine is. The relationship between Mona and Nadine reflects common strife between a mother and a teenage daughter. They both feel helpless, angry, and unappreciated. Nadine and Darian struggle with being similar in age, but socially in totally different stages. Their relationship is tenuous, as is possible with siblings, but the deep, however distant, love for each other is clear.
The relatability of this film is amplified tenfold by its R-rating. It allows the dialogue to be witty, raw, and uncensored, which makes it feel like you’re watching real friends talking about day-to-day high school struggles. Nothing is softened. What you watch is something that you can imagine happening to you at that age, or maybe something that actually did happen to you. The film harkens back to the time when films made for high schoolers were actually about high school, not about vampires or zombies or whatever other escapist entertainment happens to be popular that year. I have not seen a movie like this in a long time -- one so smartly written, so well acted, so not made for an arthouse audience, but could appeal to one just the same.
All in all, The Edge of Seventeen is a sweet story of growing up and (excuse the cheesiness) finding yourself. It’s realistic, darkly funny, and one of the only genuinely good movies geared toward high schoolers that I’ve seen in years. Though the story is one of high school, the themes are pertinent to people of all ages: life can suck and it will pass, but surrounding yourself with good friends makes it a hell of a lot easier. It is difficult to say whether this film will join the ranks of high school classics like Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, but it definitely has the potential to do so.