GFF19: Eighth Grade
Adolescence is hell in this spiky but tender debut from US standup Bo Burnham, which follows a painfully awkward 13-year-old on her last few days of middle school, with high school looming
Adolescence is brutal. Or at least it feels that way. The great achievement of Bo Burnham’s debut feature Eighth Grade is that he manages to visually articulate this teen angst, and the results are hilarious and oh so cringe-worthy.
Our focus is 13-year-old Kayla (Fisher), who presents a motivational vlog aimed at her peers with topics like “How to be confident”, despite being a cripplingly shy social pariah – her channel has barely more than a handful of views. Burnham has a knack for putting us in Kayla’s awkward skin: a pool party full of cooler, more confident kids becomes a walking nightmare, while every appearance of Kayla’s crush sends the image into a dopey swoon. Anna Meredith's swirling electronic score taps us into Kayla’s psyche too, amping up the feeling of anxiety one moment, acting as the teen's faux-triumphant theme music the next.
Eighth Grade finds its tender heart in Kayla’s relationship with her adorkable father, who knows his daughter is struggling but doesn't quite know how to help. Burnham’s refusal to cast the internet as the film’s bogeyman is refreshing too. Adolescence is brutal, and this remarkably well-observed film doesn’t sugar coat it.