Opening with dialogue of seventeen year old “Nadine” (Hailee Steinfeld) explaining to her high school teacher why she has decided to end it all, might not seem like a barrel of laughs.
When her form teacher “Mr. Bruner” (Woody Harrelson) patiently explains she has interrupted him writing his own suicide note, we know we are in like post, post irony territory.
Nadine has grown up hard, with no friends until she found a BFF “Krista”, the radiant Haley Lu Richardson. However, events keep snatching away joy or least reduced unhappiness from her grasp. Her older brother, uber popular jock “Darian” (Blake Jenner) remains infuriatingly the antithesis of Nadine.
Fortunately, their slightly neurotic mother Kyra Sedgwick loves them both equally, actually that’s not true which shows how catching this post irony vibe can be. Fortunately dad Eric Keenleyside is around to sort stuff out, acting like “Polyfilla” for the family, smoothing over all the cracks.
This is a film about learning to grow up and working out who the hell you are. During the first act, we have seen this many times before, silly school drink parties etc. But as the film deepens, it begins to speak to the awkward teenager inside us all. Hopefully we have not experienced all of Nadine’s awkward moments but you will be lucky indeed, if you recognize none.
At times painful to watch, as Steinfeld is wholly believable in the central role. She is ably supported by a deadpan Harrelson, who still manages to dredge up some compassion, whether deliberately or not, he remains there for her at times of need, these times are many.
A shy fellow student makes tentative romantic overtures, which of course Nadine rebuffs and finds ways to mess up. Will she ever see sense and allow her mother to bring her blood pressure below 140?
Steinfeld nails the central role and writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig negotiates the precarious changes of tone with consummate ease, it could all of have very wrong but does not put a foot out of place.
A sweet film that creeps up on you, if you can get past the first 15/20 minutes then you should keep watching. Underneath that ditzy high school superficial gloss, there beats a heart of seriousness, telling a story that should resonate with anyone that’s already “grown up”, whatever that means.
As the Tagline neatly encapsulates, “You are only young once, is it over yet?”.
Whilst youth may be indeed wasted on the young, how many of us would really want to be be 17 again with social media and ever present pressures to conform?