Remember when you were 13? Remember being shy and awkward about everything (shawkward, if you will)? Remember parties with the cool kids where you felt totally out of place?
Bo Burnham does. And he brings all those memories flooding back to you in his film Eighth Grade, which is in theaters now. I saw it tonight with a good friend and left it moved (and not after chuckling and grimacing a lot).
Watch the trailer!
This movie perfectly captures what it feels like to be an eighth grader of just about any age in the last 20 years, but it especially nails on the unique challenges of being an eighth grader in 2018.
Our protagonist Kayla is finishing up her last year of middle school and looking out into her high school future. She is shy and awkward, she doesn’t have friends, and she doesn’t have a boyfriend. But she does have a YouTube channel for giving advice about being confident, making friends, etc. The movie is interspersed with Kayla’s videos (and montages of social media selfies), false fronts which tie together a story about the gap between reality and the false reality which so many young people feel compelled to create through social media.
As you can imagine, the awkwardness and irony of this part of life (and all the silliness of modern culture) make this movie a riot of laughs. It really will bust your sides. But there is real pain and darkness and sadness that shows up early in the movie and becomes more clear as time goes on. You’ll clutch your fists with rage or weep at how the rules of the world rob young girls and boys of their happiness and innocence. And you’ll walk away with new empathy for the eighth-graders out there, but also for all people caught up in the “comparison traps” and reality distortion fields of social media.
As my friend observed, Burnham has said he created this film to express and show some of the very human and very common anxiety in the world today. On the inside, we all have a bit of Kayla’s insecurity, and we all have a bit of Kayla’s soulful goodness. God help us, and God help our young people. There’s a better way to live than all of this.