Title: Eighth Grade
Release Date: July 13, 2018
Director: Bo Burnham
Production Company: A24
More than any movie I’ve seen before, Eighth Grade captures the reality of the insecurities and search for identity of a young teacher. Set in the last week of 8th grade, 13-year-old Kayla records advice videos to post online which act as narration as we see her attempt to build her confidence and try new things. Kayla is voted “most quiet” in her class and doesn’t have any close friends. With high school looming she has to navigate going to a popular girl’s pool party (only because she was invited by the girl’s mother) and trying to talk to her crush, awkwardly during an active shooter drill. Shadowing a genuinely kind high school girl boosts her confidence but then she endures an awkward come-on from a creepy high school boy.
This movie is carried by Elsie Fisher, who as a young actor has the unenviable task of having the camera on her at almost all times. Even when other people are talking, the audience sees the small but telling reactions in Fisher’s eyes and face, which is actually a really good representation of how a shy person experiences a lot of social situations. When using social media – which Kayla does often – the camera catches the reflection of her face on the screen. And while Hollywood loves to have “perfect” people in the movies, Fisher looks like a real kid with pimples and crooked teeth. Kayla’s description of having the scared feeling of waiting to go on a roller coaster without ever getting the good feeling of getting off a roller coaster is the best analogy for constant anxiety I’ve ever heard.
I see a lot of my younger self in Kayla, but all the more so, I get a glimpse of my future self in Kayla’s dad, Mark, portrayed by Josh Hamilton. Hamilton captures all the dorky awkwardness, anxiety, and pride of being a dad when one doesn’t quite know how to connect with the child changing before one’s eyes. This is brilliant movie and it honestly captures life experiences that many people will relate too, albeit not without cringing, because it cuts so close.