Ashton Dudley ‘20
Eighth Grade is an indie drama written and directed by Bo Burnham. This film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, was Burnham’s feature film directorial debut. It has garnered widespread critical acclaim and has been praised as an raw and insightful depiction of Generation Z and the struggles faced by children growing up in the digital age. The film follows Kayla Day, a fourteen year old girl during her last week of middle school, and it features many relevant and important topics that are affecting today’s youth. Kayla is quiet and does not have many friends at school, but she uses the internet as her creative outlet. She makes youtube videos in which she gives others advice about how to make friends, be confident, be yourself, etc. Kayla suffers from fairly severe social anxiety but she uses her phone, music, and youtube videos as an escape from having to engage in social situations. In recent years, smartphones and digital media have been blamed for making kids more antisocial and insensitive than in previous generations, and Kayla is the perfect example of a “screenager”. Elsie Fisher (Kayla) is able to perfectly convey the complete and utter awkwardness of a middle schooler in her debut performance. This film is for the most part painfully awkward and cringe-inducing, but you cannot help but to feel for Kayla. It features a scene in which Kayla is put in a situation in which she turns down the inappropriate sexual advances of a boy much older than her, and this scene is one of the main reasons the film has received such critical acclaim. It does not shy away from many topics that would normally be deemed inappropriate for Kayla’s age group. This is one of the most socially and culturally relevant films I have ever seen, and I hope that it opens the door for more open conversation regarding the subjects it discusses.