Eighth Grade: An Emotional Journey Through Adolescence

From Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade (2018). Photo courtesy of google.com.

By Dillon Sheehan
Contributing writer

Eighth Grade (2018)
Director: Bo Burnham
Cast: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson
Rated: R

If you’re looking for a new movie to watch, Bo Burnham’s summer coming-of-age movie is a wonderful trip down memory lane. It left me reflecting on my middle school self, both on how much I struggled, and yet, eventually appreciated those years of development.

Elsie Fisher (Despicable Me) portrays Kayla Day, a middle schooler in her last days as an eighth grader. Kayla is shy and awkward but has a heart of gold. She makes YouTube videos in which she gives others advice, but they also act as self-therapeutic. Through many sequences of Kayla talking to her computer camera, we get a sense of who she is and the increasing social pressures she faces day to day.

Josh Hamilton (13 Reasons Why) plays Kayla’s father, who only wishes the best for his daughter. Their relationship is one of the highlights of the movie, and we experience the confusion of adolescence through both Kayla and her father.

Despite being comedic, Eighth Grade does not shy away from the realities of being a middle schooler. Burnham explores the social media obsessed culture of kids, yetyet he does not attack it. Kayla’s anxiety stems from wanting her peers to notice her even if it is only through Instagram or Snapchat. Eighth Grade stays relevant through Burnham’s inclusion of Vine quotes and modern pop culture references.

As an audience, we are able to enter Kayla’s world and empathize with her. There are rapid shots that create a sensory overload with a perfect mix of auditory and visual imagery. Burnham could have easily turned this into a clichéd gross-out comedy, but he treats the story and characters with sincerity. When Kayla cries, we cry. When she laughs, we laugh.

Having seen the movie twice, I would have expected to find a flaw or two, but there are little, if any, worth mentioning. Eighth Grade may have brought back some embarrassing memories for me, but those helped me to recognized how much I had matured since I was thirteen.

Five out of five stars.