Thirteen-year-old Kayla (Elsie Fisher) endures the tidal wave of contemporary suburban adolescence as she makes her way through the last week of middle school – the end of her thus far disastrous eighth-grade year.
Being 13 is brutal. The painful truth of it is something rarely expressed on screen but 8th Grade
At home Kayla,13, makes upbeat YouTube advice videos about how to be confident, but it’s a persona totally at odds with her life at school, where she is a quiet nobody. She moves through the hallways alone, scrolling
However Bo Burnham, the 27 year old, male director, is unflinching in how close he gets to his subject, empathetically showing her acne covered skin and nervous laughter. He is adept at creating scenes that make you feel prickly and uncomfortable to watch – but that are important to endure.
Kayla craves male attention and it’s horrific to watch as she is co-erced into a game of truth and dare by an older boy in the back of a car and stammers her way through his intrusive questions about how far she’s gone. It’s a very real depiction of the power imbalances in relationships.
But there are also moments of pure joy, particularly when Kayla meets Olivia an older high school girl and is swept into her “awesome” world and the moment she realises her dad (Josh Hamilton) sees her for who she truly is.
This is the sort of film I needed to watch at 13 and at 38; a thought provoking and deeply enjoyable exploration into the struggle to connect and how vital it is.
Eighth Grade is in cinemas now