Eighth Grade

"But first, let me take a selfie..."
Verdict: 
7/10 - Eighth Grade is by no means groundbreaking, but it's a fun, engaging, heartwarming film that'll no doubt leave you feeling satisfied
Release Date: 
Friday, April 26, 2019
Written by: 

Kayla's online persona is teaming with confidence, but in real life her crippling anxiety means she's never fitted in - and sometimes that's OK...

9

It's always difficult for movies to tackle modern-day issues like social media and mental health in a way that feels authentic and somewhat productive.

On the one hand, it's important to highlight the problems that the digital age presents to youngsters, but there's also no point in making people sit through 90 minutes of fear-mongering that, in reality, is going to have little effect.

Instead, appealing to younger generations is key, and director Bo Burnham found a format that triumphs with Eighth Grade, which places teenager Kayla Day as the feature's first-person narrator and leading woman.

Charmingly played by teen actress Elsie Fisher, Kayla lives a dual life; producing motivational online content while stammering her way through everyday life, feeling every bit the outsider. She is engaging, likeable, and, most importantly, relatable.

Hiding herself behind Snapchat filters and Instagram messages, her single father Mark (Josh Hamilton) desperately tries to break through and ground his daughter in reality, but his efforts are met with little response.

After being voted "most quiet" in a poll by her classmates, however, Kayla is desperate to prove them wrong, and creates a list of things that she wants to achieve, including having a best friend and getting a boyfriend.

The teen soon accepts an invitation to her classmate Kennedy's pool party, where she suffers a mild panic attack at the thought of stepping out in her swimming costume and attempts to catch the attention of her crush, Aiden, by making a series of outlandish propositions that land her in increasingly hot water.

What follows isn't groundbreaking - in fact, it's probably everything you'll expect before you enter the screen - but that's what makes Eighth Grade such satisfying viewing. It ticks all the boxes, and more...

Throughout Kayla's journey you'll recognise awkward situations from your own life; there's a scarring YouTube search about oral sex, several uninformed attempts at social integration, a Truth Or Dare game that explores issues of consent, and a friendship with a boy - Gabe - who can only be described as the high schooler's perfect counterpart.

What's surprising about Eighth Grade is just how touching a movie it is, and you'll laugh and cry along with Kayla - who is, by the way, only 13 - proving just how successful the movie is at bringing to life the problems that young people face today.

As with all good coming-of-age stories, there are ups and downs, and it's ultimately the support of those around her that pulls the teenager out of her rut and allows her to accept herself for who she truly is.

Bo Burnham's writing and direction is masterful, and Fisher's performance is a standout, with every stutter and stammer totally believable, resulting in a heartwarming narrative that will leave you feeling positively uplifted.

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