An introverted teenage girl tries to survive the last week of her disastrous eighth grade year before leaving to start high school.
Following one young girl during her last week of classes before graduating to high school, ‘Eighth Grade’ is a charming coming-of-age film that encapsulates the challenges of growing up for kids today. The film is the directorial debut of Bo Burnham, previously known as a ‘Youtuber’ and comedian, and it has rare insight into the experiences of its characters, aided by a terrific breakout performance from Elsie Fisher in the central role.
Kayla Day is an eighth grade student who spends her spare time producing vlogs where she gives life advice, contrasting with her quiet persona at school where her anxiety hinders her ability to form relationships with her classmates. She’s heavily reliant on social media, yet longs for connection in the real world, and we follow her as she awkwardly interacts with fellow classmates and reacts with an overeager level of enthusiasm to those who do show an interest. Through these encounters the film covers themes such as the toxicity of social media, sexuality and consent, and mental health, but it does so with real authenticity and I found myself swept up in a world both familiar and alien to a 30 year old man (not too much older than Burnham to be fair!). Elsie Fisher’s performance is so natural and utterly captivating and I particularly liked the portrayal of her relationship with her single father (Josh Hamilton), which had a genuine sweetness too it even as both weren’t sure how best to connect with one another.
Coming-of-age films are perhaps my favourite cinematic genre and ‘Eighth Grade’ is a really good entry into the genre, utilising keen insight and a sensitive approach to its material and characters to tell a story that manages to be funny, awkward and achingly real at all times. Elsie Fisher is a star in the making and Josh Hamilton was every bit as good as her father, with their scene by the campfire an early contender for one of the most memorable and poignant scenes of the year. I saw it at an Unlimited screening at Cineworld but it’ll be on general release from Friday 26th April and it’s well worth a trip to the cinema to see it.
Directed By: Bo Burnham
Starring: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson, Catherine Oliviere, Jake Ryan, Luke Prael and Daniel Zolghadri