Everyone has heard this question before, the one where someone would ask you, “If given the chance, what advice would give your younger self?” As I sit here now and think about that answer, there are so many ways you could go with it, but I think the simple answer is, it gets better. Watching Bo Burnham’s film Eighth Grade I was reminded of this question and the awkwardness of being that age and watching it unfold in front of my eyes felt like a train wreck, one you couldn’t unsee an still remember what it feels like.
Now when I say train wreck I don’t mean it in a bad way, but in that, this is hard to watch because I remember these moments in life pretty clearly. When we meet Kayla (Elsie Fisher) she is preparing for her last week of 8th grade as she tries and find herself along the way. Kayla wants to be more then she is, but she is quiet and reserved in school, but meanwhile at home she post YouTube videos to help others navigate through their adolescent life. Everything is just how you remember it was back then. For most of us it’s easy, since we have been through this storm, but watching Kayla go through it makes you squirm in your seat at what you are seeing. We get to see her go through it all, including going to a party that the girl’s mother invited her to, as well as trying to get the attention of boys by trying to be who they want. All while this is happening, her father Mark (Josh Hamilton) tries to be the dad he always has, but with Kayla’s changes all she rather do is spend time on her phone than talk to her dad. As Kayla rushes up and down the roller-coaster of life, she prepares to take the next step and we are all along for the ride.
After watching Kayla go through the motions, I felt awkward as she made the decisions she made and wanted to send a note, not to tell my younger self what to do, but to help her along the way. Of course she wouldn’t listen to me since I am an adult, but Burnham’s film feels so real you recall what it was like being a kid at that age. Having a daughter who already went through this made it easier for me, but when I think of people who have daughters going through this now or will soon, I wanted to give them a hug. Burnham nailed this age perfect and uses music cues as well as silence to up the ante on the situations. That though is not the only thing that works as Fisher is marvelous as Kayla and brings to this character something I don’t know if anyone else could have. Add to that, the relationship between her and Hamilton who plays her father, this just hits too close to home if you have ever been or know anyone in eighth grade. I would tell you to take your preteen or teenager to this movie, but let’s face it they are not going to want to see it with you. So instead see it in a theater with a good friend, a good glass of wine, and prepare for the memories and fear of that time to come rushing back.