Relive Middle School.
DIRECTED BY: Bo Burnham
WRITTEN BY: Bo Burnham
STARRING: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton and Emily Robinson
SYNOPSIS: An introverted teenage girl tries to survive the last week of her disastrous eighth grade year before leaving to start high school. (IMDB)
FULL REVIEW: CONTAINS SPOILERS
Writer-Director Bo Burnham started off on YouTube so it’s only fitting that he implements the platform he knows so well into this tale. The story follows Kayla (Fisher), an eighth grade student, who is trying to survive her final week of middle school with the aid of her friend and mentoring high schooler Olivia (Robinson) as she endures the bullying of Kennedy (Catherine Oliviere), the unwanted attention of Gabe (Jake Ryan) and tries to get the attention of Aiden (Luke Prael). In her spare time, she creates YouTube videos for a small audience while being consumed by her electronics and avoids talking about her life to her over-involved single father (Hamilton). This is her story.
This film is able to take an overdone genre and bring something fresh to it thanks to many key aspects. For starters, the performances by the ensemble are fantastic and work perfectly for each role they are meant to fulfill. Robinson plays the optimistic senior who helps support the very unsure Kayla on her journey while Hamilton is great as the over concerned father figure, but the driving force of this film is Fisher as the lead. She takes this role and proves that only she could command such a presence giving enough uncertainty, emotion and anxiety to this character making so many of us relive those awkward moments in our own adolescent journeys.
This realistic character, as well as many others in the story, simply come to life thanks to the expertly crafted script. The blunt and truthful look into the struggles with identity not only in the context of middle school and adolescence, but with the added pressures of technology and social media, creates a tender and accurate commentary on the middle school experience. This is paired beautifully with Burnham’s direction that carefully constructs awkward cinematography, like extreme close ups of faces, as well as songs that follow the mood of the protagonist in order to completely immerse the audience in not only the plot, but Kayla’s emotions and by extension her fears. From this we do not see a cliched depiction of teenage life and the romanticized drama that comes with it, but rather an almost documentary-style dive into the real and blatant struggles of any teenager going through the first identity crisis.
Overall, Eighth Grade is a phenomenal coming of age story that looks into the psyche of a middle school student that feels the weight of the world on her shoulders. From its extremely relatable and awkwardly truthful story, stellar direction and captivating performances, this is one trip down memory lane worth revisiting. It is one of the most realistic depictions of teenagers exploring their identity.
★★★★★★★★★☆ 9/10 – Recommend
What did you think of Eighth Grade? Let me know in the comments!
If you liked this, check out my other reviews. I also write for keithlovesmovies.com and post video reviews on my YouTube channel The Film Fanatic where we post other content like countdown videos, movie recommendations, script analyses and more. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and like me on Facebook, and until next time Fanatics, keep it reel.