Aaron Wolf’s review published on Letterboxd:
Normally I try to come up with a cheesy, one-liner review, but with this movie, I thought I share my own experience of being in eighth grade.
Eighth grade was where my anxiety began. That year I transferred to a new school. My teachers told me I was falling classes with no improvement and required special education so they sent me to a school with a learning center program. I was not on board with the idea. After moving schools twice and spending 4 years with the class, I was contempt with where I was. I wanted to graduate with the kids I have known since 4th grade. I refused to leave them behind to spend one year with kids I have never met. Therefore, when I started 8th grade at a completely new place, I isolated myself. I refused to talk to anyone except when I needed to. Talking to other people felt like a chore, especially at the lunch table where I was forced to sit with certain people. I shut myself out.
Making friends was not easy for me in eighth grade. I found the one kid also without friends and clung on to him. He was one of my only friends. He always bullied constantly and I stood up for him. However, the reality is, I only became his friend because he also had no one. I just wanted to feel like I had a friend, but never truly liked him. But I guess sympathized with him as someone who felt ignored as well.
Like my only friend, I was bullied in eighth grade. Kids made fun of my acne, they called me ‘retard’, and they judged me for still liking Pokemon at 14. They even poked fun of me for who I hanged out with and when I stood up for him. One girl, who for the sake of this story we will call Monica, bullied me the most. She would call me “pizza face” everyday, she would mock how I dress on our “dress-down days” (I attended a catholic school with uniforms). She would push me around and called me "nerd" and "gay". Monica influenced the other kids to start tormenting me, leading a bullying-tirade. Eventually things got better towards the end of the year. I’ll never forget how on the last day of school, Jessica came up to and gave me a hug and apologized for how she treated me all year. Soon all of her friends apologized too and for that one moment, I felt I had people there who cared for me.
That year of isolation and cruelty deeply affected my life. I continued to shut myself out in high school. I sat alone at lunch far too many times, never went to any parties or did anything with anyone after school. I would hear the other guys talk about the wild weekend they had where they banged their girlfriend or got really wasted and wanted it too. My anxiety worsened. Everyday was a struggle to get out of bed as I didn’t want to face the people who while I was envious of, I also hated. Everyday I was 30 minutes to an hour late cause of how much I dreaded people. I just wanted to lie in bed and never talk to anyone. And even though I had found a group of people I connected with elsewhere, I still felt alone. I felt like a third wheel all the time. While working a 4-8 hour job has improved my social skills a bit, I still get a sense of nervousness and fear most interactions. Anxiety is an evil monster that lingers over me forever and it was eighth grade that made me realize I am faced to live with it my whole life.
Eighth Grade felt like my story was being told. In eighth grade, I was Kayla. I was awkward and quiet and had no confidence. I was a friendless being who clung on to the worst person out of pity. I was teased for my awkwardness and mannerisms. Transitioning to high school scared me cause I knew I it would all be the same. It only got a little better when I made some friends, but I still felt isolated. This is a movie I really needed in eighth grade and still needed now today. Kayla’s messages in her videos about being confident and putting yourself out there would have given me more courage to be more outgoing and to want to development impactful relationships. Maybe i would have had the courage to confront Monica. There is no doubt that my anxiety would still be there, but with a movie like Eighth Grade, I feel as if I could have more control over it. Bo Burnham created one of the most real coming-of-age experiences I’ve seen since Lady Bird. And I’m glad he allowed children to see his movie without an age-restriction because the distress of transitioning from eighth grade to high school can be terrifying. Growing up and taking on your teen-years can be terrifying, and with Eighth Grade , Bo created a guideline for eighth graders everywhere on how to conquer their fears and take on high school with a feeling they will be alright. Thank you Bo.