Often very funny, always unassuming and never over the top, Eighth Grade’s quirkiness gives it its unique sense of brilliance

Finally reaching the UK, a year and three months after its initial release at the Sundance Film Festival 2018, Eighth Grade is the latest release in a long line of independent and modern productions from the American’s A24.

Directed by stand up comedian Bo Burnham, the film explores a short period of Kayla Day’s (Elsie Fisher) life, as she finishes middle school and looks to move forward into life at high school. Struggling with the pressure of modern day childhood, Kayla is seen as one of the quietest girls in school, something she is determined to prove false as quickly as she can.

Starkly similar to Jonah Hill’s Mid90’s, Eighth Grade plays host to themes with an up to date setting and a definitive and complete arc. Kayla’s progress becomes very clear, and Eighth grade is particularly good at showing how she improves and adapts. As the story evolves, Kayla’s personality becomes glaringly obvious, something Burnham has seeped slowly into both the direction and the initial script. There’s a clear parallel between Kayla’s acceptance of herself, and the way the story opens her to its audience.

Eigth Grade 2

Fronted by a wonderful performance from Fisher, Kayla’s anxiety plays a huge role in the film, and the difficulties she faces because of this, desperate to overcome what brings her down. Noted by Burnham himself, his own anxious nature became the reason he felt encouraged to write the script, opening his own struggles to the wider story. There is a strong sense of reality to Eighth Grade, and its understanding of its characters and what makes them work is vitally important.

Often very funny, always unassuming and never over the top, Eighth Grade’s quirkiness gives it its unique sense of brilliance. There is no fear in becoming silly but neither in facing up to genuine issues whilst treating them as impossibly important. With a script as good as Eighth Grade’s it becomes very clear how vital its aims and understanding are, without forcing issues or appearing fake.

Engaging and educational, Eighth Grade taps into a generational divide and shows just how volatile teenagers are, but also very clearly exactly why that is. The pressures of modern day childhood are lain out to see, but by using original comedy and fresh ideas, Eighth Grade shows just how important the transition from child to adult is, however tumultuous the journey may actually be.

4/5

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