Fear of Growing Up (The Edge of Seventeen, 2016)
The Edge of Seventeen opens…well, over-dramatically. Nadine sits before her teacher, telling him she plans to kill herself. She simply felt an adult should know. The response is…unexpected. This leads to a recounting of Nadine’s life. She has always felt in the shadow of her brother. Kids in school were mean to her. She met her best and only friend in second grade. And then, one night her family is ripped apart.
The film has a slew of cliches. The seemingly indifferent teacher who secretly cares about his student. Nadine is misunderstood by her cold and distant brother and her flaky mother. She swoons for an over romanticized boy. She has a good friend who is totally into her, yet she is uninterested in. And yet…
This movie does it all so very, very well. Nadine is, at times, absolutely insufferable. She is traumatized by the idea of her best friend Krista dating her brother that she cuts Krista off. She shares with her brother a moment after their father died she saw him weeping…and turns it into a knife to stab him with.
But Nadine is also painfully sympathetic. Her heartache is real. She is self absorbed not because she is a narcissist who thinks she is special. Maybe I am a sap. Maybe it is because these characters connect for me on an emotional level. I have walked in friend Erwin’s shows. A cartoonist longing for the attention of someone who does not seem interested. And one of the things I like about the character is, he never whines about the “Friendzone”. The idea of just being friends does not repulse him. He still wants to be her friend. There is one scene where he is embarrassed and hurt, yet it is understandable. And he takes being mocked in stride. I also understand the feelings Nadine expresses about herself. Looking and the mirror and hating yourself. Nadine and Erwin actually embody my early years quite well.
The performances are fully engaging. The snarky interplay between Nadine and Mr. Bruner is nicely played. All the performances fit exactly what the story needs. The story does not justify Nadine’s negative traits, but rather bring her towards expanding her world. This is the directorial debut of Kelly Fremon Craig, who has a whopping previous two credits. She also wrote the film and has woven a heartfelt exploration of growing up and facing the seemingly insurmountable hammer blows life can throw at you.