The Edge of Seventeen Parent Review
In an award worthy performance Hailee Steinfeld plays Nadine, a frumpy high school junior locked into a very narrow perspective of life. From the outside, the teen could easily be accused of being narcissistic, angsty and skanky. Yet this coming-of-age story looks beyond appearances and explores the many factors that have contributed to her difficult persona.
One of two children, Nadine’s mother Mona (Kyra Sedgwick) has always favored her older son Darian (Blake Jenner). Obsessed with her own polished image, it seems Mona just couldn’t come to terms with her tussle-haired daughter, whereas Darian’s handsome charm fulfilled her parental expectations. Her father, Tom (Eric Keenleyside), sensed the situation and tried to compensate by offering her extra love, compassion and a fun escape on those tough days. But while Nadine was finishing middle school, Tom succumbed to a heart attack and passed away.
Left with a shortage of support and self-worth, Nadine’s only friend is Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), another loner she met during her elementary years. However, that bond is about to be tested too.
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It happens when Mona announces she’s going away for the weekend with a dentist. At first thrilled with the idea of having the house to themselves, Nadine and Krista are soon dancing up a storm, eating anything they desire and guzzling down a bottle of booze. Darian also takes advantage of the situation by inviting some guys over to swim in the pool. The next morning as Nadine crawls out of the bathroom where she passed out earlier, she discovers Darian and Krista in bed together. Their unexpected alliance leaves Nadine feeling completely betrayed and a little suicidal.
With no one else to turn to, Nadine shows up in the classroom of her English teacher, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson). While the middle-aged educator could be described as somewhat harsh and sarcastic, he has listened to the student’s laments before. And with the present circumstances being what they are, he suddenly becomes the only adult role model the girl can turn to for support.
Despite being marketed as a female youth drama (at our screening, the studio rep requested opinions specifically from the women in the audience), The Edge of Seventeen presents themes and lessons that are of equal importance to males and adults. These include the dangers of sexting, the silliness of believing you have to choose between two friends and the oft observed problem of single parents behaving like teenagers. In fact, if there’s a core message to this film, it is the need for parents to parent, rather than trying to be their children’s buddy. This is particularly evident as we observe Mona’s implied approval of having Krista regularly sleeping over in Darian’s bed.
The teen sexual behavior, along with other scenes involving detailed sexual discussions, and frequent profanities (including about a dozen sexual expletives), may leave some parents convinced there is too much edge in this movie. Still, for families reeling from loss or other traumatic events, the script may provide emotional depictions that ring with sincerity.
For parents with teens wanting to view this content heavy film, the best advice would be to go with them. Your life experience will be a great guide as they look at the script’s happy ending, and consider the possible consequences for the characters’ actions, which are ignored or not addressed. Perhaps the most valuable outcome of this movie may be an opportunity to discuss with your own children the challenges they may be experiencing as they try to navigate the adolescent years without going over the edge.Directed by Kelly Fremon. Starring Hailee Steinfeld, Blake Jenner, Woody Harrelson. Running time: 104 minutes. Updated November 22, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in The Edge of Seventeen here.
The Edge of Seventeen Parents Guide
How do the various characters in this movie contribute to Nadine’s motives for making decisions? While ultimately she is accountable for her own choices, consider their influence on her, for both good and bad:
Mona (Nadine’s mother): After the death of her husband, how does Mona react? Is she still fulfilling her role as mother? What is she expecting from Darian? How does she view him differently from Nadine? What does her unspoken approval of Darian’s relationship with Krista tell us about her views of sexuality and her assessment of Darian’s maturity?
Darian (Nadine’s brother): What has happened to Darian’s life since the death of his father? How has this incident motivated his decision making, especially in regards to entering into a very serious relationship with Krista? How does he view Nadine? Is he ever overtly nasty or abusive to Nadine?
Nadine: How does Nadine see her family members? How does she view Krista? Is her anger toward others valid? What motivates it? What type of relationship is she seeking from Mr. Bruner, her teacher? Why do you think she is considering engaging in sexual activity with a boy she hardly knows? Why does she have a difficult time seeing the quality of character in Erwin, the boy she sits beside in class?
Mr. Bruner (Nadine’s Teacher): Mr. Bruner is sarcastic and somewhat annoyed with Nadine’s frequent visits during his lunch break. Is his response to her appropriate, especially considering his role as an authority figure? What are the risks he would take if he were to become more involved in Nadine’s problems? How do his actions protect her without him putting his professional career at risk?
Erwin (played by Hayden Szeto): Erwin is a boy in Nadine’s class who has a crush on her. Why? Why is he so persistent with trying to gain her attention? How is his desire to seek Nadine’s attention different than those of the boy she sent the explicit text to? What do we learn about Erwin after Nadine visits his home?
When you view The Edge of Seventeen you may recall the poignant lyrics in Janis Ian’s song “At Seventeen” from the 1970s.