Wednesday, January 13, 2021

52 Films By Women Challenge - The Edge of Seventeen (2016)


In 2015, the Los Angeles' Women in Film started a challenge to watch one film by a female director every week for a year. I've seen this floating around social media and movie blogs for a while, and always meant to join in. For 2021, I finally decided to try it out this year as one of my resolutions.

Every week I thought it'd be fun to do a quick round-up of the film(s) I've watched for the challenge. The films I chose for the challenge are on letterboxd - if you want to see the slate so far - but I'm not going in an particular order of alphabetical or chronological. 

My first film is The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig

Near the fourth anniversary of her father's death, Nadine Franklin's (Hailee Steinfeld) life is in a rampant state of upheaval - her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating her more popular  brother Darian (Blake Jenner), a tempestuous relationship with her mom Mona (Kyra Sedwick), and sending mixed signals to a crush she has at school.

The film is first and foremost driven by Hailee, who gives one of her best performances since True Grit. Nadine is very much the center of her whole world and everyone around her. It's one of her biggest weaknesses and strengths - she has an uncanny ability to alienate everyone around her, but at the same time, her friends and family would do anything for her. Hailee balances Nadine's awkwardness and constantly putting her foot in her mouth as well as insensitivity and lashing out especially when she feels slighted. As Nadine comes up against one misunderstanding or problem after another, Hailee carries all of the comedy and tension of the plot on her shoulders while also developing chemistry with the supporting cast around her who don't have as much screen time as she does - especially Woody Harrelson as Nadine's teacher and Hayden Szeto as a new friend of Nadine's.

As her first film, Kelly Fremon Craig doesn't push the standard YA tropes that makes it seem like life as a teen is ~just being a misfit~, but at the same time, Nadine's entire plot revolves around unavoidably getting into mischief and running away from/facing real serious family problems all on her own. The script, which she also wrote, is surprisingly well-paced for focusing on a solo character while also trying to tap into the chaotic mess the family is thrown into after the father's passing. Craig's direction and script doesn't sacrifice one or the other, and maintains an even balance of the two throughout. Her approach reflects Nadine as a character in a lot of ways by not trying to fit into a mold of a young adult film - it's straight-forward, candid, and wears its emotions on its sleeves.

For the most part, though after a certain point, the story does beg the question how much turmoil Nadine can run into in the span of a few days or a week / two. When the story starts to pump the brakes on everything that transpires, it feels fitting and cathartic for the characters but also rushed. I wish the film eased up more on the anxiety and depression Nadine feels, which causes her 'act out', or balanced out the family/friends as they can come across as selfish or unsympathetic (mostly Krista and Darian's relationship). The Edge of Seventeen is a remarkable film debut, and it'll be interesting to see how Craig tackles one of her next YA projects - Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

Rating: ★★☆
Have you participated in the 52 Films By Women Challenge? or seen The Edge of Seventeen?

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