Not content with being a successful YouTuber, comedian & musician Bo Burnham is now trying his hand at writing & directing too. He’s the man behind new coming of age drama ‘Eighth Grade’ which has already attracted much critical acclaim and awards attention since its US release and run in the festival circuit. UK & Irish audiences have had quite the wait with its official release here eventually arriving a whole eight months after its initial opening.
The film follows eighth grader Kayla, played by Elise Fisher as she goes through her last days in middle school before moving to high school. This is a slightly younger character to be the focus of a coming of age story than the genre would usually have but it makes perfect sense. With the world constantly changing and younger kids having more and more access to technology and social media it feels so appropriate to tell this story through the lens of this slightly younger age group who society is forcing to grow up much faster. Burnham’s screenplay excellently includes the influence and presence of social media on Kayla and her classmates throughout the narrative. It never feels like a gimmick though as it always furthers the plot or has a reason to be present. In addition to this his exploration of social anxiety is superb. Burnham achieves this in a number of ways presenting such relatable experiences that will take you back to many moments from your own adolescence. Often doing this with really entertaining comedy these moments are really funny to watch but on occasion Burnham decides not to soften the blow whilst exploring these issues and these scenes are similarly effective but for a very different reason.
Elise Fisher who previously voiced unicorn obsessed Agnes in the ‘Despicable Me’ movies delivers a sensational leading performance as Kayla. Her portrayal of this character is another crucial factor in why the themes of this film are so powerful. She captures this excruciatingly awkward and deeply confusing time period of a young person’s life excellently, so much so that it never feels like a performance. As you watch her you’ll remember girls and boys from your own classes in school like Kayla or more than likely you’ll see so much of Kayla in you from your time growing up, and maybe even now too. Josh Hamilton stars as Kayla’s father, Mark, and the pair have a great father/daughter chemistry going for them. Their relationship feels natural and believable in every instance contributing a lot to both the comedy and the strong emotion running through the film’s narrative. All the performances work well but this is wholeheartedly Fisher’s film and she brings Burnham’s writing and concept to life in spectacular fashion.
‘Eighth Grade’ has universal appeal, telling the story of many young people from a wide spread of generations. What’s more is that it feels so current and not in a way that comes across desperate to include the newest craze or most popular app in an attempt to be relevant. Instead it truly captures and understands the reality for countless young people growing up today and tells their story in a hilarious, heartwarming and at times harrowing way. Already set to be a coming of age classic, ‘Eighth Grade’ is a remarkable achievement for Burnham seemingly suggesting there’s no end to this man’s talents!
Written by Hamish Calvert
Rating – 8/10
Question: What is your favourite coming of age film?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)
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