Photo taken from IMDb
Twenty-eight-year-old American comedian Bo Burnham’s decision to start directing was nothing but a good one, as he recently gave the entertainment industry what it’s been missing: a film that portrays the reality of a young teen accurately.
Burnham’s film “Eighth Grade” is the epitome of the raw emotions and anxieties that a young teen goes through during their middle school years. It took on the challenge of accurately mirroring the reality of the life of an eighth grader in modern day and succeeded. The film brings one their own rough years of middle school when everyone was struggling to be their true selves and find the group they belonged with.
While no one wants to relive their middle school years, watching “Eighth Grade” is by far worth your time as well as the slight pain from embarrassing flashbacks of your own eighth-grade years. That’s what makes the film so powerful. Its relatability is completely spot on, as it captures the reality of the struggles someone at this age is facing.
The film follows introverted teen Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) through her disastrous final week in eighth grade. She takes on new social challenges such as talking to boys, addressing the popular girls and hanging out with new friends along with all the anxieties that come with doing so. The film openly reveals the pressures teens go through to fit in and the standards social media puts on teens. An example of this is when Kayla watches makeup tutorials while getting ready just to take an “I woke up like this” Snapchat.
It’s worth noting that Burnham doesn’t try to hide Fisher’s acne like most directors would, in order to create the typical flawless movie image. By choosing to let it be visible, he doesn’t cover up the truth about being 13 years old. He lets his audience see that having acne at this age is normal and allows the audience to fully watch Kayla grow comfortable in her own skin, which is something that many middle schoolers struggle with.
This coming-of-age-film is exactly what those around middle school age need to see. They need to be shown that reality of the unspoken standards they’re held to instead of the fictional “movie magic,” where fictional stories modify reality in order to make a movie “be better.”
Even though Kayla is an eighth-grader, this is a film many can relate to. The problems that Kayla is facing may not be identical to your own, but the fears of rejection from those around you and on social media, along with the want to fit in and find your place is something many can relate to.
Fisher gives an outstanding performance as she takes on such a vulnerable role. The way she acts around her father, played by Josh Hamilton, is an accurate portrayal of how a teenager acts around their parents in real life. While Kayla pushes her father away, getting annoyed with any and every question he asks, he still tries to show his daughter how much he cares about her and how he believes that she is a “cool” individual.
To help her battle the social aspects of being a young teen, Kayla makes YouTube videos in which she gives advice designed for other teenagers. Her video topics include how to find confidence within yourself and the importance of finding your true identity.
While her intentions are to help others, these videos seem to really help her take strides in becoming comfortable with being herself around her peers.
For the generations this film is directed towards, YouTube is a familiar platform that many people use regularly, which helps connect the audience with Kayla. The entire film is about trying to understand Kayla as she tries to understand herself.
Kayla’s e body language, actions and emotions do such a great job in exploiting the truth of middle school. While I have high hopes that many more raw films like “Eighth Grade” will enter the entertainment industry, Burnham has set the bar high for all those that may follow.