The Edge of Seventeen (2016) by Kelly Fremon Craig is an American ‘coming-of-age’ dramedy in which depression is explored as the central theme of the film. I found this film to be relatable, enjoyable, and engaging, and, though there was an aspect of the film I did dislike, I highly recommend the film.
Warning: This review contains spoilers.
The film opens on the protagonist Nadine telling her history teacher Mr Bruner that she is suicidal. This is followed by a montage of Nadine’s earlier years of life, revealing two important facts about Nadine: 1) she was bullied when she was younger and struggled to make friends, and 2) the only person who Nadine felt ever understood her, her father, is dead. The montage reveals that Nadine’s depression is more complicated than would seem on the surface. The major plot of the film concentrates on Nadine’s negative reaction to her best friend Krista and brother Darian dating and, while her feelings appear to stem from Nadine’s selfishness and awkwardness, Nadine is actually upset because their dating both leaves her isolated and causes her to realise the pathos of her existence. Furthermore, other aspects of depression are explored through the film, such as issues about self-image. One way self-image is evident is through a medium distance high-angle shot of Nadine vomiting into the toilet bowl while she is drunk. Another example is when she says that a few days earlier she heard herself on a message machine and she suddenly had an out-of-body experience where she was looking down on herself and she realised she hated her appearance and the sound of her voice.
What I liked
Personally, I liked how the film portrayed depression as something more complicated than typical teenage angst. I also liked how the characters in the film, namely Erwin and Mr Bruner, accepted Nadine’s depression and supported her through it. Conversely, I think it was realistic that Nadine’s family struggled to handle her depression, as this is common in family’s where a member is depressed. Through all of this facets, I found Nadine to be a relatable and real character. The film’s exploration of ideas about family, dating, and school were explored in a manner that is relevant to an adolescent audience. While The Edge of Seventeen examines depression in depth, it also has its comedic moments (usually through Nadine’s awkwardness) that lighten the viewing experience.
What I disliked
There were moments in the film where Nadine’s unhappiness was caused by her own undoing. This took away from both the plot and Nadine’s likability. Some examples include: when Nadine forces Krista to choose between her and Darian and then gets frustrated because Krista refuses to choose between them, when Nick is only interested in hooking up after her raunchy text message to him, and when she refuses to get out of the car to go to school and is annoyed because her mum drags her along to work.