I think it’s difficult to portray young life well in film, but Eighth Grade takes on the challenge. It’s an authentic portrayal of teenage life in so many ways: the anxiety, awkwardness, and uncertainty you feel about yourself are all there, but so are the moments where you learn things about yourself and decide to accept and love them.
A few daydream scenes are backed by great songs, then cut fast and abruptly to bring both the character and audience back to reality. Some scenes are perfectly uncomfortable and just the right bit of long, and it’s those type of bold choices in editing that help tell this beautiful story so well.
Eighth Grade reminds you how mean kids can be, but also how adults don’t really get less mean per se, we just get better about being polite about it. And of course, none of this would be possible without Elsie Fisher’s performance which brings Kayla to life in a genuine way.
I mean, even the fact that Kayla has acne in the movie speaks to how important it was for Bo Burnham to tell this story authentically—not in a perfect, airbrushed, everyone gets along Hollywood way. Eighth graders (and all of us, really) can watch this and see themselves and hopefully learn that it’s ok to be awkward, it’s ok if you haven’t found “your people” yet, and if things didn’t turn out the way you wanted, tomorrow is a whole new day to try again.