Most people were pretty awkward in their youth. It’s how we got through that adolescent period that helped shape the people we are today, but it can be rather enlightening to take a look back at those awkward times. In Eighth Grade, writer/director Bo Burnham takes an intimate look at the last four days of eighth grade for one introverted little girl as she attempts to break out of her shell. It’s a charming film with an immeasurable amount of heart that speaks to each and every one of us. Dig deeper into your youth with our Eighth Grade movie review.
Eighth Grade follows Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) during her last four days as an eighth-grade student. At school, she is socially inept. She barely talks to anyone or has any friends, and when she wins the award for the quietest student (voted on by her peers), she breaks down in tears. She is the definition of an unpopular eighth grader, and it’s a feeling that most of us can relate to. At home, Kayla makes YouTube videos about life that no one watches. She would rather sit at the dinner table glued to Instagram with her earbuds blaring instead of having a conversation of any kind with her single parent father.
It’s at this point in Kayla’s life where she’s hopeful about high school next year and fearful about everything else. Her dad tries to make her feel better, but it’s difficult to tell a young teen that things get better. This is where Eighth Grade resonates with almost anyone who watches it. If you can’t relate to Kayla as an eighth grader, you can relate to the troubled father who is just trying to make sure his daughter is okay. You can relate to the popular girls at school who want nothing to do with Kayla or her crush who she’d do anything to garner attention from. The point is, there’s something in this movie that everyone can relate to.
While Elsie Fisher carries the movie and is featured in almost every scene, there are a few other shining stars. Kayla’s father, Mark Day (Josh Hamilton), is perfect as a parent who cares for his daughter but doesn’t really know what to do. He straddles the line between a loving father and an overbearing parent with perfection. There are a few aspects of parenting, as well as Kayla’s interactions with other kids, that seemed a little off, but overall what this movie brings to the table is exceptional.
The other teens featured in the film each have their own unique impact. Gabe (Jake Ryan) is the dork of the movie, who owns Star Wars utensils and has a blind confidence that only the best nerds are capable of. Olivia (Emily Robinson) is a high school senior who takes Kayla under her wing but isn’t always there when she needs protection the most. Aniyah (Imani Lewis) is Olivia’s best friend, and while she doesn’t have many lines, she makes her presence known in every scene.
What’s marveling about Eighth Grade is the fact that Bo Burnham was able to successfully tap into the mind of an eighth-grade girl, yet relate to so many other people at the same time. Even the music in Eighth Grade makes Kayla’s world feel larger than life. There are plenty of moments when you feel as though you’re inside Kayla’s head, anxious about what’s happening to her on screen. If you want to relive your childhood anxieties or better understand your children, Eighth Grade is a great place to start. It’s rated R, but only for three or four curse words that could’ve easily been removed without significant impact on the film.
About Eighth Grade
Synopsis: A teenager tries to survive the last week of her disastrous eighth-grade year before leaving to start high school.
Director: Bo Burnham
Writer: Bo Burnham
Stars: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson
Runtime: 1 Hour, 34 Minutes
Bryan Dawson has been writing professionally since the age of 13. He started his career as a video game writer and has since worked for Random House, Prima Games, DirecTV, IGN, AOL, the British Government, and various other organizations. For GNN, Bryan taps into his passion for movies.