Edge of Everything (Lightyear Entertainment, NR)

Sierra McCormick in Edge of Everything

Still reeling from the sudden death of her mother, Abby (Sierra McCormick) finds herself stuck living with her heretofore absent father, David (Jason Butler Harner), and his stuck-up girlfriend, Leslie (Sabina Friedman-Seitz). The soon-to-be-15-year-old freshman starts to rebel in little ways—stealing Leslie’s earrings, buying crappy weed from a neighborhood kid and turning an apple into a bong to smoke it in. Her milquetoast dad doesn’t know how to punish her, and her goody-two-shoes theater kid friends don’t know how to react to her naughty streak with anything other than worried glances at each other. Still, her rebellion is all pretty innocent—until, that is, she meets Caroline (Ryan Simpkins), a wayward older girl with no moral limits. Abby soon starts following Caroline’s lead, adopting a new, more dangerous attitude and a willingness to try anything. It’s only a matter of time before Abby pushes things too far.

It’s hard to describe Edge of Everything without making it sound like an afterschool special or a Reefer Madness-style over-the-top cautionary tale that intends to lay bare the ills and moral turpitude that inevitably follow from giving in to sin, so I feel it’s important to note that this is not that kind of movie. In their first feature film, co-writers and co-directors Sophia Sabella and Pablo Feldman avoid obvious moralizing. Which isn’t to say it goes to the opposite, Kidslike extreme of glorifying Abby’s bad behavior either. The film doesn’t stand in judgment of Abby, but it allows her to make a series of really bad decisions in a way that feels true to her character and her circumstances, and lets her figure out if she really wants to be the person she’s turning into or not.

That it succeeds in walking that tightrope is mostly on the shoulders of Sierra McCormick, whose performance as Abby is a revelation. A former child actor (including a large role in 2010’s Ramona & Beezus and a four-year stint on the Disney Channel show A.N.T. Farm), McCormick pulls off the rarest of tricks: despite being a full decade older than the character she is portraying, she is absolutely, 100% believable as a teenager, from the awkwardness she exudes when she finds herself in adult situations to the sullenness of her posture when dealing with her dad’s ineffective attempts at parenting.

But the best part of her performance, and the part that saves the film from collapsing under the weight as the new forays into sex and drugs pile on, is the way McCormick sells Abby’s poor decision making. Each time Abby is presented with a new bad choice to make, a new taboo she can break, McCormick pauses—you can see in her eyes the speedy internal debate that erupts in her mind, the hesitation, the questioning of whether she really wants to do this, and then a switch flips, her eyes glaze over as if to say “ah, fuck it,” and she does it anyway. It all happens in just a second or two, but it makes clear that her decisions, then, are not decisions at all, but deciding to not decide and just roll with whatever life (or Caroline) throws at her, for better or worse (and it’s pretty much always for worse). Edge of Everything is just over 80 minutes in length and its story takes place over just a few days, with a huge chunk of it taking place in a single night. Abby does so, so many bad things in such a short span of time that it’s in danger of feeling cartoonishly excessive, yet by embodying Abby’s numbness and apathy, McCormick dials it back to a believable reality.

In the same way they offered no upfront judgments, Sabella and Feldman have concocted an ending that offers no obvious moral of the story to conclude their fable. Some may bristle at the lack of a clear, cathartic ending, as it does make the journey feel a tad pointless, that it feels like nothing changed. But then, it also feels honest that the changes in Abby are more subtle. She is, after all, only 15. She has a lot of life left to live, and a lot of time to figure it all out. | Jason Green

Edge of Everything is on VOD from Lightyear Entertainment.

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