I left A24’s Eighth Grade speechless in the best way. The first thing that came to mind as the credits rolled? Holy expletive, that was amazing! I know many have said this, but I completely agree: Eighth Grade is raw and Oscar-worthy.
Written and directed by Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade shows the last week of Kayla’s final year of middle school. Kayla (Elsie Fisher) is thirteen, anxious, quiet but not quiet, and struggling to find her place. The popular girls and her peers don’t want to be around her. Aiden is hot and doesn’t really give her the time of day. She’s trying out YouTube, but her dad’s the only one watching her videos. Kayla’s just not having an easy time. But high school is around the corner, and things have to get better right? Follow Kayla as she makes her way through the last bits of middle school while trying to discover who she is and who she can be before summer gets underway.
I found Eighth Grade incredibly realistic in its representation of today’s eighth graders. As someone who worked with junior high students for about five years, I greatly appreciated that Burnham went for reality. I easily saw my past students in Kayla and her classmates–right down to their use of Snapchat in the middle of class. Eighth Grade manages to show an accurate snapshot of today’s junior high experience in such a short amount of time. The good, the cringy, the heartbreaking–absolutely nothing is sugarcoated. Not even the active shooter drills or the struggle of finding your place in a world where social media presence plays an integral part in social status.
It’s the rawness of this movie that makes it hit so hard. I found Kayla’s struggle with anxiety throughout the film incredibly important. I was, and still am, a ball of anxiety. The depiction of having undiagnosed anxiety in junior high was so spot on that it made me cry at one point. I also loved seeing Kayla’s acne. It’s incredibly refreshing to see this Elsie Fisher’s face as it actually is. She’s a kid that looks like a kid, and I appreciate that so much. It’s a reality that I wish was something we saw more of in movies with teens.
Finally, Elsie Fisher’s acting is phenomenal. You feel Kayla’s pain and root for her with the hope that things will get better. They have to get better because, if any character deserves it, it’s Kayla. I sincerely hope Elsie wins a nomination for this role.
Just, holy cow. Holy cows and sheep. Eighth Grade is a movie you have to see!
See Eighth Grade in theaters!