“But it’s like, being yourself is, like, not changing yourself to impress someone else.”Kayla
Bo Burnham’s directorial debut focuses his attuned voice on an unremarkable young girl clumsily navigating the final week of eighth grade (Year 9 in the UK), but its success is capturing the disconnect between adults and the children with whom they seek to communicate. Elsie Fisher’s astounding portrayal of Kayla’s shy awkwardness is what endears us to the quiet, thoughtful character. Although Kayla is permanently attached to her phone, technology hasn’t really changed the underlying angst as these new teenagers deal with crafting an identity away from their parents and seeking out platonic and romantic relationships. The female perspective invites comparisons with The Edge of Seventeen, but the smaller scope of its narrow timeframe makes Eight Grade a slice of life rather than a coming-of-age story. Burnham is less interested in nostalgia than capturing reality. The most lasting impression came from Kayla’s YouTube vlogs that pepper the film as a form of narration, in which she earnestly offers the advice that she sorely needs herself.