Once in a while, you’ll find a film that is so authentic, real and self-aware about the way it addresses a certain subject. If that film is successful enough, anything preceding it trying to approach something similar will most likely fall flat. Bo Burnham successfully captured this exact kind of film with Eighth Grade and ended up making one of the most important films of the year.
Almost Too Relatable
Spending time alone and becoming comfortable with yourself and your own skin is so important. The audience watches Kayla on her journey as she discovers herself and it’s truly one of the most beautifully progressive things I’ve ever watched.
Showcasing a certain type of loneliness on the big screen can be extremely difficult. I relate to Kayla more than almost any other fictional character, on every single level. Within pretty much every modern coming of age film, the main character has a best friend or group of friends. Growing up, especially in high school, I was no where near close to having something like that. It sucked. It felt like I was the only one. But after I watched Eighth Grade, I realized I wasn’t the only one. Not even close. Even if you weren’t exactly like Kayla, you were someone similar to her, and you definitely know someone like her.
I can’t stop myself from thinking about what it would’ve been like for my thirteen year old self to watch this film. To watch with my own eyes a young girl struggle to make eye contact and converse with people about the simplest things. The exact same way I used to struggle. This film made me realize that I wasn’t alone even when I felt like no one in the whole world had ever felt what I was feeling – or even cared what I was feeling. I spent years asking myself, “what’s wrong with me?” only to find out later on that the feelings I was having were completely normal, and very common.
Within Eighth Grade, Kayla provides us with amazing commentary on what it’s like to be a teenager today. It involves constant internet use, taking hundreds of selfies and endlessly scrolling through Snapchat and Instagram feeds, including the societal pressure of being perfect and fabulous all the time.
Kayla and her father have a very complicatedly loving relationship. You can tell that she’s embarrassed by him when he does certain things (usually on purpose). On the other hand, I could also see her internal conflict of not wanting to treat her father that way. There’s a scene close to the end which never fails to bring me to tears. Kayla sits by the campfire in her backyard with him and spills how she’s feeling – like a burden. Her dad tells her he’s so lucky to be her father and wishes she could see herself from his eyes. This moves me so much and I’m even getting choked up writing about it now. I can’t even count how many times my dad did this for me. How much Kayla and I both needed it.
Bo Burnham changes the entertainment industry in ways that aren’t even understood yet. He keeps the story light and humorous while also tackling dark and not so fun subjects. Eighth Grade is so incredibly genuine in the actuality of middle school, it almost acts like a terrifying fever dream. Another thing I loved was that all of the kids who were cast are real teenagers, something that is very rare for this type of film.
This film is painful to watch, especially if these years are a distant memory for you. Every memory comes rushing back and you end up cheering for the “unpopular” girl, who’s actually the most beautiful and bravest girl when the only thing she’s trying to be is herself.
Do you find Eighth Grade easy to relate to? Why or why not? Tell us on Twitter @WeAreSecondU