“Eight Grade” (2018) is a poignant and piercingly forthright comedy-drama that charts the final week of 8th grade for 13 year-old Kayla (Elsie Fisher), a painfully shy junior high school student whose only manner of open expression comes through the motivational videos she posts to YouTube.
Addressing her online audience in artificially optimistic form, Kayla belays a confidence and optimism she struggles to translate to her daily interactions with classmates as well as her single-parent father (Josh Hamilton). Often handicapped by social anxiety and desperately pining for both friendship and male interest, Kayla finds unexpected buoyancy from Olivia (Emily Robinson), a kind-hearted 12th grader whom she meets through a high school shadow program. Despite Olivia's reassuring presence and overall positive influence, however, Kayla experiences repeated disillusionment with boys, whose only interest in her lies in their pursuit of sexual gratification.
Written and directed by Bo Burnham, a comedian and celebrated YouTube celebrity in his own right, “Eighth Grade” is a remarkably original take on the teen comedy-drama. It constructs a fresh and insightful peek into the often emotionally harrowing experiences of young people enmeshed in social media for the sake of personal affirmation. Fisher’s wonderfully authentic performance cements the film as a genuine triumph, perfectly balancing sentimentality with awkwardness, trepidation and heartfelt emotional accord.
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