Eighth Grade ★★★★★

I don’t think I’ll be able to encapsulate exactly how this movie made me feel, or how much I believe art like this matters, so I’ve decided to keep it simple and just make a choppy list of some of the reasons why I loved it.

•Every scene is meaningful in one way or another. Nothing is filler; everything feels purposeful. And from the fact that she had to wipe water out of her eyes in the pool to the stumbles and “like”s and “um”s scattered throughout everyone’s sentences, so many little touches make it feel real. I can’t emphasize enough how authentic and genuine this movie is. It has so much heart and so much realness. 

•Not only do the situations and sets and dialogue feel real, the characters seem like actual people! All of them. That’s so rare in films.

•I could go on and on and on about the script and the acting, because that’s what resonates with me the most, so it’s easy to forget how good everything else was too. The cinematography, set design, lighting, editing, pacing, transitions, etc etc etc everything is spectacular. 

•Despite it feeling so raw and realistic, it’s also infused with creativity. I loved how they layered the social media feeds over Kayla’s face at night. I loved how the camera followed her through the hallway or outside to the pool party. 

•In addition to creativity, it also has humor. It is a heavy movie in a lot of ways, but there are also funny moments with her dad and a teacher attempts a dab.

•The music reflected her emotions and state of mind instead of just what was happening on screen, which I absolutely loved.

•I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a movie where the protagonist’s skin wasn’t flawless, and it was so refreshing. People have acne. Especially teenagers. Why do we fail to acknowledge this in movies? I love that this movie works against this to recognize it as normal.

•Elsie Fischer is an incredible actress and also just seems like a stellar human being.

•As someone with social anxiety, I found Kayla to be extremely relatable - I’ve never seen it portrayed this accurately (at least according to my own experience). In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever felt this validated by a character in a film? So it really made me think about the importance of diversity and positive representation in the media, from race to sexual orientation to mental illness. Everyone deserves to see people they can relate to acknowledged and celebrated on screen.

•The fact that Kayla expresses herself through making videos was also very relatable for me. Platforms like YouTube of course have faults and downsides, but social media also does amazing things. Personally, it has always been a way for me to express myself and interact with others without having to make eye contact while doing it. Physically being around people gives me way more anxiety than communicating online or through writing. While the confidence anonymity provides can lead to cyberbullying or people hiding behind a username, it can also help people. I’ve benefited greatly from social media - it gives me time to think and revise and practice and edit, and it has made me more comfortable with who I am and how I express myself in the situations where I do have to interact and present myself “irl.”

•The relationship between Kayla and her dad is just awesome. It’s not very often that the relationships between parents and their children are explored so thoughtfully, and this movie did it so well. And that scene by the fire was so beautiful. His message was simple and raw but so profound, and it’s one that kids - especially kids like Kayla - probably need to hear. And yeah, he embarrassed or irritated Kayla at times, but it was also acknowledged that they loved each other - he was sweet and thoughtful and caring, which isn’t always part of the equation when it comes to dads in movies.

•Shoutout to Olivia for seeming like a genuinely kind person. Olivia being friendly to Kayla, treating her as a peer, telling her she’s not alone in her loneliness and that things will probably change for the better was so rewarding to watch, and her way of reaching out and just being nice is something everyone deserves to be on the receiving end of, especially during times like middle school.

•That scene in the car felt so real (like the rest of the movie, as I’ve said a lot), and so important in the context of current dialogue around sexual assault. It demonstrated how things can build until they become dangerous, how it’s not so simple to just “say no,” how girls are shamed instead of supported when they do say no, and how predatory guys (whether they’re intentionally being manipulative or not) twist situations to seem like they’re doing a favor or trying to be nice.

•I liked how the movie accepts and embraces phones & slang & the way teenagers talk as part of our culture, not just for humor or to make a point or to make fun of millennials. It shows some good and some bad.

•Her conversation with Gabe at the end is so beautifully awkward and sweet. It feels like a tribute to how conversations and making friends can be difficult, but that’s okay. And it shows that no matter how awkward or cringy a conversation is, it can still be a purely positive interaction, and that’s something I need to remind myself more often.

Anyway, I just love this. It feels different and more real than anything I’ve ever seen, and I already find myself wanting to rewatch it.

I have a feeling that my tenses are all over the place, and there will always be more praise to think of for this movie, so I will probably be back countless times to fix this review and add to it. 😂