Young, energetic stories need young, energetic voices, and that’s what The Edge of Seventeen has going for it. Written and directed by first-timer Kelly Fremon Craig, The Edge of Seventeen is a coming-of-age/high school drama littered with clichés and familiar moments but manages to remain lively, upbeat, and, most importantly, fresh.

The movie centers on Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), a volcano of a teen who thinks that no one else is as broken as she is. When she confronts her history teacher, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson), with plans to commit suicide, Mr. Bruner responds with his own fabricated suicide letter. The dark humor isn’t lost on Nadine, but the overall aim to draw Nadine out and into other people’s lives is. What matters is herself and herself alone.

Not that this is out of the ordinary. All teenagers think that life is shit to just them. Add to that the death of Nadine’s father—who had a heart attack in her presence—her mess of a mother (Kyra Sedgwick); her older brother, Darian (Blake Jenner), with the perfect body and the perfect life, who is now dating her best friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson); the boy she would like to date/bang in the back room of Petland; her nerdy classmate, Erwin Kim (Hayden Szeto), who is awkwardly trying to move them into the more-than-friends realm, and you have the makings for a whip-smart spiritual sister to Juno.

While all of these touch on the hallmarks of growing up, Edge of Seventeen stands out thanks to Steinfeld’s ace performance and her relationship with Erwin, who is as self-conscious about his awkwardness as he is self-aware. Additionally, the brother/sister dynamic between Nadine and Darian’s relationship is equally heartfelt and honest. Relationships are what count, and Edge of Seventeen has just enough of them to elevate the movie above standard teen rom/coms.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
Written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig
Produced by James L. Brooks, Kelly Fremon Craig, Richard Sakai
Starring Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Kyra Sedgwick, Woody Harrelson, Hayden Szeto, Alexander Calvert
STX Entertainment, Rated R, Running time 104 minutes, Opens November 18, 2016