In his feature film directorial debut, comedian Bo Burnham deftly encapsulates the awkwardness, angst, self-loathing and reinvention that a teenage girl goes through on the cusp of high school. Given that the 27-year-old stand-up comic achieved fame as a teenager himself through YouTube by riffing on his insecurities, he is uniquely capable as the film's writer and director to tell the story of Kayla, an anxious girl navigating the final days of her eighth grade year, despite creating a protagonist w female instead of male. Like Burnham did more than a decade ago, 13-year-old Kayla turns to YouTube to express herself, where she makes advice blogs in which she pretends to have it all together. In reality, Kayla is sullen and silent around her single father and her peers at school, carrying out most of her interactions with her classmates on Instagram and Twitter. Her YouTube videos are a clever narrative tool that provide insight into her inner hopes and dreams, much like an ...
Unlike so many of a similar vein, 'Eighth Grade (2018)' isn't about 'kids gone wild' or 'the corruption of a constantly online world'. Rather, it's simply about a good person trying to figure out what it means to be herself. It's both a tender reflection and an in-the-moment snapshot, one that's not fuelled by nostalgia so much as empathy. It's wonderfully authentic and, as such, is incredibly relatable. There's nothing flippant about the flick, either. It comments on the internet, and social-media in particular, without being dismissive of it, never reducing social-media to some sort of blanket 'evil'. It's more nuanced than that, understanding where the root of most problems come from, and wholly accepts the world as it is. It tells a small story with small stakes that sort of seem non-existent - that is, until you remember just how big everything seemed when you were a child. Social anxiety as antagonist is a difficult thing to pull off, yet this does it almost impeccably. It also features one of the best father-daughter relationships I've seen on screen, one which culminates in a truly beautiful fire-side scene. Overall, the piece is pacy, nontraditional and entertaining. It's really uplifting, too. In some ways, it sort of functions as one of its protagonist's self-help videos: no matter how old you are, it tells you that everything is going to be okay. It's delightful. 8/10
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