Glasgow Film Festival – Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade [rating=5]

“Growing up can be a little bit scary and weird”.

In ‘Eight Grade’ we get to know Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) a thirteen-year-old who is transitioning from middle school to high school. Anxious and insecure, Kayla creates advice videos on YouTube focusing on how to be yourself – even though she struggles to do so herself. It is through her vlogs that we really get to know more about Kayla throughout the film as she uses it to speak to her viewers and tell them about herself and how people see her.  In the videos she seems cool and confident, but behind the camera, Kayla struggles with body confidence issues and self-doubt. This is made all the worse by comparing herself to popular classmates on Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram as she scrolls endlessly through the apps longing to be like them. All Kayla wants to do is fit in and make friends with her classmates, but they see her as invisible, even nominating her as most quiet in her grade. In reality, they just don’t give her the chance to talk to them. She also longs for her crush (the cool guy that everyone wants to hang out with) to notice her but feels too shy to act. It’s all painfully familiar. Meanwhile, her endlessly supportive single father (and her number one fan), Mark Day (Josh Hamilton), struggles to stay connected with his daughter and his every attempt seems to cause her to resent him. 

I think it will be easy for women, in particular, to relate to Kayla at that point in their life, or indeed even now. Burnham manages to capture exactly what it’s like in a social media dominant world to feel everyone is watching and judging one another, and how much it can affect people to spend so much time scrolling. Elsie Fisher was absolutely phenomenal in her portrayal of adolescence from beginning to end. I couldn’t believe how little acting she had done prior to her performance.

Awkard, funny and surprisingly insightful; Eight Grade is a painfully accurate representation of life at that age and all the pressure that comes with it, leaving the viewer both engaged and connecting with the characters throughout. We all remember what it’s like to be that age and trying to stand out or fit in. Burnham’s debut in cinema is endearing from beginning to end in this surprise hit. I loved everything about Eighth Grade and look forward to what Bo Burnham does next. It really is too bad the film is rated 15 in the UK as I feel a lot of twelve and thirteen-year-olds would find comfort in seeing Kayla’s story and her experiences going into high school.

“Just because things are happening right now, doesn’t mean things are always going to happen to you and things will change”.