For those who haven't blocked out the painfully awkward experience that was middle school, Bo Burnham's directorial debut, Eighth Grade is here to remind you of just how awful it really was. Thing is, it's even more difficult for kids in middle school today because they have to deal with social media, and all the pains and heartbreak and pressure it brings with it.
Eighth Grade made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival and was immediately a break out success. It's already been picked up by Lady Bird distributor A24, which isn't surprising as both films bring a realism to the human experience that is growing up that is rarely captured so poignantly in movie storytelling. The movie follows 13 year old Kayla Day, played by the very talented Elsie Fisher as she embarks on her last week of eighth grade. It's a frightening time for any kid who is about to leave the safety of middle school and move on to high school, but in today's day of social media the pressures on students is magnified.
In the first trailer for the film we're introduced to Kayla as she films a video for her YouTube channel (a staple of many middle schoolers) where she talks about 'being yourself'. Unfortunately, it seems Kayla has a hard time following her own advice. Although she insists in her videos she's outgoing and talkative, she ends up being voted 'most quiet' in her school. The child of a single father, played by Josh Hamilton, Kayla is, like many other kids her age, constantly on her laptop or phone. While she is always connected online, she struggles with having with no real personal connections. She attempts to speak to peers at school who are too involved in their own phones to hear what she's saying, and shows true anxiety and emotion over attending a school pool party. Never has a scene been as real and indicative of the world our youth is dealing with as when Kayla can be heard delivering a speech on her YouTube channel, stating "Being yourself is like, not changing yourself for someone else", while using a Snapchat filter to turn her in to an adorable panda and bunny rabbit.
Burnham, who was known as a comedian, actor and YouTuber before venturing in to movie making, explained during a post screening Q&A after the Sundance screening that his inspiration for making the film stemmed from personal experience. "I wanted to write something about the Internet and my own anxiety, and how it felt," USA Today reports. "I started writing some big large story with 10 intersecting characters and I stumbled on (Kayla's) voice, and realized I could say everything I wanted through her. I understood her to some degree."
Kayla is, like many kids her age, living something of a double life. There's the filtered and uber positive Kayla with the messages of self love and acceptance she preaches on social media, and then there's the real life where she struggles with peer acceptance and anxiety and parental embarrassment. “I’m really nervous all the time,” she says in a voice over. “I try really hard not to feel that way but you just have to face your fears and let people know the real you.”
Easier said than done, especially in middle school. The trailer for Eighth Grade will definitely transport you back to your own experiences and make you grateful that social media wasn't around when you were enduring the most painfully awkward, hormone raging time of your life.
Eighth Grade hits U.S. theaters on Friday, July 13.
Source: USA Today