Ben Oliver

Banner image for Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade

Growing up can be a little bit scary and weird.
01 June 2020

A introverted girl (Elsie Fisher) tries to get through the last week of middle school before graduating.

Eighth Grade explores that awkward time at 13/14 years of age when some kids have weirdly turned into adults (or tried to), some kids are happy to still be kids and some kids don’t know what is going on. Add to that social media, where everyone can pretend to have it together and amplify this impression to others.

Being a teenager has never been easy, but in a time when companies are vying for your attention all the time using a device that constantly buzzes in your pocket, it must be really tough now. Burnham captures that anxiety to great effect, yet without ever preaching that we should change our ways.

In fact, I was surprised at how relatable Eighth Grade is even when you discard the technology aspect of the script. It’s wise not to focus on something that will have changed again in five years, so the themes here are timeless: growing up, finding your place in the world, dealing with uncomfortable situations, trying to ‘be yourself’ when you don’t know what that means… we’ve all been there and that’s what makes the film a success.

The script is really tight, leaning hard on a few key scenes - a gamble that pays off. This is largely due to a brilliant lead performance by Elsie Fisher, as well as some simple but effective direction from Burnham.

An understated and heartfelt film that remains quietly optimistic in spite of it all.