The operatic nightmare of teenage existence gets an authentically modern portrayal in this hilarious and heartbreaking wonder of a movie.
Quiet 13-year-old Kayla (Elsie Fisher) has few friends at school but projects otherwise non-existent self-confidence on her YouTube advice videos, which nobody watches. In the final week of the titular year, she attempts to expand her social existence.
Although it's well-worn coming-of-age territory, writer/director Bo Burnham makes the bland cruelty of the teenage years feel brand new and fresh for innovative cinematic exploration.
The 28-year-old Burnham (who appeared in The Big Sick) first rose to prominence on YouTube himself, and his depiction of how the internet and social media infects and informs Kayla's life rings especially true.
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With rare exceptions (2017's Ingrid Goes West is one), movies often struggle with realistically integrating social media into their narrative, but Burnham achieves a lot with it here. One delightful highlight of this aspect is a montage of Kayla ogling her crush on Instagram set to Enya's 80s classic Orinoco Flow, indicative of the film's many musical flourishes.
Eighth Grade evokes the classic TV show Freaks & Geeks in how it finds honour in simply enduring the relentless humiliation of teenagedom. And although Burnham is obviously influenced by John Hughes (Pretty In Pink), he builds on the work of that legendary chronicler of teen life by having a more clear-eyed view of what young women, in particular, have to contend with.
For all Burnham's skill in making the artfully-composed film, it's Fisher who really carries all the humour and heart, delivering a stunning performance that serves as a painfully relatable avatar for everybody watching. You'll experience every one of her emotions like they were your own.
Cast: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson
Director: Bo Burnham
Running time: 94 mins
Rating: M (Offensive language & sexual references)
Verdict: An extremely funny exercise in the art of compassion.