Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson
In receipt of both substantial buzz and delighted critical acclaim following its Sundance premiere, US comedian, actor and writer Bo Burnham’s coming-of-age comedy-drama Eighth Grade is a hilarious, heartfelt and unusually clear-eyed look at the trials and tribulations of adolescence. Currently holding an impressive 99% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it has marked the first-time director out as a name to watch.
The story revolves around 13-year-old Kayla (brilliantly played by Elsie Fisher) as she struggles through the last week of middle school. A loner, plagued by social anxiety, she channels her creativity and longing for friendship into her online persona, confidently dispensing advice via video blogs. But nobody watches them, and during her last days of eighth grade she becomes determined to connect in real life with the girls who look down on her and the boys who don’t even look at her.
Fisher’s truly exceptional (and Golden Globe-nominated) performance powers the film, which also benefits from an incredibly refreshing lack of artifice: the dialogue is sometimes inane, words are sometimes stumbled over, and the actors evince physical flaws – much as in real life. There is also considerable nuance, with Kayla experiencing moments of joy as well as awkwardness, and an acute awareness of the different roles teenagers play. Funny, distinctive and touchingly sincere, Eighth Grade will garner strong word-of-mouth as well as critical plaudits and will stay with you for a long time.