Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham, 2019)

What's it about? 13-year-old Kayla (Elsie Fisher) navigates the last few days of middle school, in a touching portrait of teenage life.


Is it any good? A great coming-of-age film for our times, sensitively and honestly exploring teenage angst in a world pervaded by social media. All the normal teenage anxieties are present and correct - there will be few viewers who do not recognise something of themselves in Kayla, as she frets about her appearance, her dreams, her crushes and her social circle. However, it's the astute examination of the online pressures which now inform all these aspects which gives this a contemporary shot-in-the-arm, demonstrating how social media can exacerbate, rather then relieve, loneliness, especially at this vulnerable stage of growing up. It should certainly help any parents out there empathise with their teenage children when they're gazing feverishly at their mobile devices. It also helps that the remarkable Fisher gives a wonderfully natural performance, conveying all the awkwardness, shyness and desperation of early teenage years, as well as a more confident persona in her online vlogs which is perhaps aimed at herself more than anyone else. There's not much of a story here, but it's a tender, deeply human film as well as providing further proof, if proof were needed, that becoming a teenager is pretty damn stressful. But not as stressful as being the parent of one.

I don't trust you. What do others think? Universally praised by critics, it also gained recommendations from the likes of Barack Obama and is gathering good word-of-mouth among impressionable teenagers. So this sensitive depiction of a teenage girl's life must mean director Bo Burnham is a female, right? Wrong. He's actually better know as a YouTuber and internet comedian, so has brought that experience to the (pool) party, but nothing in his record suggested he would turn out something as deft as this for his debut film. Let's also hope it catapults Elsie Fisher to stardom. Here's a nice interview with them both about their inspirations for the film.

What does the Fonz think? Awkward Days

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