Writer/director Bo Burnham’s directorial debut Eighth Grade is the most real and raw coming-of-age story in cinema since 2016’s The Edge of Seventeen.
A young thirteen year old girl named Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) is quickly approaching her final few days of the eighth grade. Day is an ordinary, but quiet girl who enjoys playing with toys, listening to music, go on social media, and make YouTube videos of her own to give other viewers life advice and tips. Day will soon have to take her own advice to heart as she transitions into high school.
Let me just start off by saying that Eighth Grade was a giant breath of fresh air to watch. The past few months in regards to cinema has not been the greatest with plenty of disappointing or just downright horrible films being churned out. After seeing Eighth Grade, it was a pleasant surprise to see Burnham craft such a realistic film with characters that feel as if they could actually exist.
Fisher’s lead character Kayla Day is one of the most relatable film characters of the year thus far. Some of the things that she went through during this film actually reminded me of some thing that happened to me while attending middle school. Day is a shy person around all her peers in her class, but when she is all by herself making a YouTube video, her energy is strong and she comes across as confident. By making the videos online, she begins to try to take some of the advice she was talking about in her videos to her own personal life. While watching Eighth Grade, Fisher was not even present – it seemed as if Kayla Day was a real person, not a fictional character portrayed by an actress. She seemed like a real person that could be in middle school in the real world right now.
A lot of that great characterization is due to the amazing script by Burnham. The characters he writes and the situations he puts them in are excellently written and realized. Barely anything about the picture seems fake or unrealistic.
The only real glaring issue that Eighth Grade has is the character of Mark Day (Josh Hamilton), Kayla’s father in the film. His character almost always comes across as the completely squeaky clean character in this picture. Mark is a remarkably charming character and an overall great father to our lead protagonist, but there are several times in Eighth Grade where he comes across as too perfect. For example, there were a couple of times where Kayla would lash out or do something bad, and she receives no repercussions which seemed a little bit too fictional.
Eighth Grade delivers a remarkable lead performance from Elsie Fisher, and one of the most realistic coming-of-age stories in years.
Overall Grade: A
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language and some sexual material
Cast: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson, Jake Ryan
Directed by: Bo Burnham
Distributed by: A24 (United States), Sony Pictures Releasing (International)
Running Time: 94 minutes