It’s the last week of eighth grade and thirteen-year-old Kayla (Elsie Fisher) is attempting to navigate an awkward transitional period of her life.
As a young teen who struggles to build friendships due to her lack of self-confidence, Kayla deals with universally relatable feelings of anxiety – increased by the pressure of growing up in the era of social media. Despite this, Kayla records ‘school advice’ vlogs, endeavouring to help others through middle school, while learning to help herself.
Elsie Fisher is as real and natural an actor as they come. As she stumbles over her words and shrinks in social situations, I was struck by the relatability and authenticity Fisher brings to the character. Fisher exudes sweetness, giving Kayla a lovability that makes it ‘oh so easy’ to root for. With brilliant comedic timing and honest performance, Fisher really stands out as one to watch in the future.
It’s also clear director, Bo Burnham did his research, as Eighth Grade genuinely feels as if it’s told from the perspective of a thirteen-year-old. References to crazes like ‘dabbing’ and slang such as ‘lit’, highlights the feeble attempts adults make to connect with the school kids. However, Burnham cringes along with us, assuring us that he’s not that kind of adult.
Burnham puts his stamp on the film, using music to great comedic effect. You can’t help but laugh out loud whenever Kayla’s crush comes into frame in slow-motion, accompanied by a burst of thumping electro music, as she watches him slack-jawed from across the room.
Shout out Anna Meredith!
More difficult moments are handled beautifully, with Kayla supported by her well-meaning dorky dad, who wants nothing more than his daughter’s happiness. He tries so hard with Kayla, attempting to make conversation and embarrassing her like all parents do. Their relationship is typical of any teen and their parents – Kayla never wants to admit how much she still needs her dad.
Tears were shed when Kayla writes out a list of what she wants from life:
- to be more confident
- to have more friends
During this, I felt an overwhelming sense of familiarity with my own teen experience. Now that social media is an all-encompassing part of our everyday lives, Kayla and young teens everywhere have it so much harder – something Eighth Grade explains admirably well.
As Kayla lies in bed, her face bathed in the artificial light from her phone screen, we’re reminded of how young teens find it difficult to disconnect from school and the anxieties that come along with it.
Eighth Grade is a timely film, dealing with the difficulties of growing up honestly, with just the right amount of humour. Elsie Fisher’s raw talent drives the narrative and we’ll undoubtedly be seeing more from this talented actress in the future.