Sundance Review: EIGHTH GRADE is a Charming Film about The Awkwardness of Jr. High

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Junior High certainly wasn’t the best times of my life. Those were some pretty terrible years. I’m sure many of you can look back on that time and relate. Now, I have a daughter in Jr. High and that scares the shit out of me! Yeah, she's going through the experience in a very different time, but nothing will change that awkwardness that these young teens are going through physically and emotionally.

The film Eighth Grade captures what it is like for these young teens to go through Jr. High now in the present day. It’s a time where all their attention is taken up by their smart phones, where Facebook has been replaced with Snapchat and Instagram. This is something that I’ve seen at home with my own daughter so this movie does show us a scary truth... and that is technology is taking over the minds of these kids!

That’s just a little observation, though. The story for the film revolves around eighth-grader Kayla Day who is looking for a connection to the world on her phone and she makes YouTube videos for people like her, who are going through the same growing pain issues that she is.

Kayla is a shy and quiet girl who wants friends and wants to be accepted. In this time, she is having feelings of isolation, anxiety, and feeling invisible. These are things that I think many of us have dealt with during Jr. High and I can see my own daughter going through it as well.

However, Kayla is determined to overcome these issues and manages to harness the power of confidence to try and talk more, be social, and make friends and as she attempts these things, it all comes out in the most charming and awkward ways that are both funny and cringe-worthy because a lot of us know what that's like! We can empathize with her and we feel bad that she has to go through this nightmarish part of life. But, she has to go through it because she wants to feel like she exists in this world! 

Even though she works up the guts to talk and associate with some of her more popular peers, implementing her plans and applying them to real-life situations is hard for her! Every word that out of her mouth comes off as being so awkward and you can’t help but laugh at it because of how honest and truthful it is.

This story all takes place on the last week of school as she is about to leave Jr. High behind her and this is her last ditch effort to exist in this place where she spent the last two years of her life being unseen. At the same time, she is struggling to bridge the gap between how she sees herself and who she believes she should be.

I loved this movie and it’s probably because I was able to relate to it. Not only with living through the Jr. High awkwardness, but also as a father with a young woman who is now going through this madness of Jr. High and adolescents and I see this story playing out in my real life every day.

The film was written and directed by Bo Burnham and he delivered an excellent movie that offers a funny down to Earth and heartfelt look at what it’s like to be 13-years-old in the present day where these kids are living their lives online.

I also just have to mention that the film’s young star Elsie Fisher was absolutely charming. She gave a wonderful performance and did an awesome job of carrying this film on her shoulders. That's not an eask task for any actor.

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