After its initial release in 2018, Eighth Grade has finally been released in UK cinemas a year later. In his directorial debut comedian Bo Burnham shows that he can turn his hand to any medium; stand up performances, composing music, Vines and YouTube videos, and now feature film.
Eighth Grade is a film very focused on the experience of being a teenager right now; the film is jam packed with references and memes the reflect our own current society. The opening shot begins with a YouTube video which becomes a great vehicle for dramatic irony throughout the plot as we get to see the main character monologue in a truly modern way. Many kids these days want to become Youtubers and social media stars and Burnham presents it in a very realistic way, having gained his own start making videos.
Social media heavily influences the plot; our main character Kayla uses it to communicate with new friends, but it is also shown to be isolating as she spends time scrolling online all night and it acts as barrier between her and her dad. Else Fisher plays Kayla with such painful self-consciousness that we cannot help but empathise with her character and relive our own teenage struggles of self-image.
Bo Burnham treats this coming of age story with genuine compassion as the awkward, middle school days of our lives are rarely focused on accurately in film. Comedy is added throughout with the clunky way Kayla talks, teachers dabbing, and upbeat music played when her crush is on screen but being 13 is never the butt of the joke. This goes above and beyond other depictions of school life in shows like Big Mouth which goes no further than shallow humour at awkward experiences. Real life issues are also portrayed in Eighth Grade, such as school shooting drills, pressuring from older boys and bullying, which shows how being a teenager finely balances between childhood and adulthood.
Ultimately, the story is treated with such care it is uplifting and traumatising to re-experience some of the horrors of being a teenager but at least we can do it in the knowledge that like Kayla, we made it through.
Director: Bo Burnham
Starring: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson, Jake Ryan and Fred Hechinger
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