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The Edge of Seventeen

Every generation has a coming-of-age film that perfectly encapsulates the trials and romantic vacillations of those hormone-fuelled years on the precipice of adulthood. In the 1950s, James Dean was the iconic Rebel Without A Cause and two decades later, The Last Picture Show, American Graffiti and Quadrophenia struck a chord before John Hughes monopolised depictions of youth culture with The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Pretty In Pink. More recently, Clueless, Mean Girls, Napoleon Dynamite, This Is England and Juno have beautifully reflected the awkwardness of adolescence and the apocalyptic sense of doom that pervades every setback at that impressionable age. Now, Kelly Fremon Craig writes and directs a bittersweet new addition to the pantheon with this deftly sketched portrait of a 17-year-old girl, who feels unloved at home and misunderstood by classmates. Peppered with acidic one-liners and some lovely moments of raw, unvarnished emotion that leave a lump in the throat, The Edge Of Seventeen traverses familiar territory with aplomb. A running commentary from the film's sarcastic heroine ensures plenty of laughs, before characters face the consequences of their reckless actions. Nadine Byrd (Hailee Steinfeld) has always been jealous of her good-looking and popular older brother, Darian (Blake Jenner). Their mother Mona (Kyra Sedgwick) treats Darian like a golden child and Nadine's chief protector, her father Tom (Eric Keenleyside), dies from a heart attack during a drive with his daughter. Her only friend is Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), a fellow outcast who shares her disdain for conformity. Out of the blue, Nadine discovers that Krista is dating her brother Darian and this betrayal of the sisterly bond drives a wedge between the girls. "It's me or him. Pick!" screams Nadine in a school corridor. Cast adrift from her gal pal, Nadine turns to sardonic teacher Mr Bruner (Woody Harrelson) for advice. Her mother also shares a mantra that helps her get through each day: "Everyone in the world is as empty and miserable as I am. They're just better at pretending." The emotional vortex intensifies as Nadine politely tolerates romantic overtures from a nerdy classmate (Hayden Szeto) and pines from afar for a handsome older boy (Alexander Calvert), who works at the local Petland store. The Edge Of Seventeen is a delight, anchored by Steinfeld's touching embodiment of a young woman who feels like she is a crudely fashioned square peg in a world of perfectly round holes. On-screen rapport with Harrelson's droll educator is sparkling, and proves crucial when Fremon Craig's script force-feeds the central character painful home truths. The writer-director achieves a pleasing balance between light and shade, and supporting cast aren't short-changed either, even Jenner's hunky sibling, who could have been reduced to a window dressing. Everybody hurts, even those who look like they have their lives in pristine order.