Eighth Grade ★★★★

Eighth grade is a strange year for most. It’s a time when you’re firmly lodged between the conflicting pulls of childhood and adolescence, when hormones escalate every menial interaction to 11, and when a bad day can seem like the definitive end of the world. It’s also probably the worst single year of your life- it was for me, and it most definitely is for Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher), the 13-year-old star of YouTube personality Bo Burnham’s aptly named directorial debut Eighth Grade.

We first meet Kayla in an extended close-up as she records a new video for her self-help YouTube channel, stuttering through her points at a snail’s pace with enough “ums” and “likes” to pass around the theater as popcorn. It’s excruciatingly unbearable and ridiculously cringe-worthy, but her MacBook camera doesn’t judge, and Burnham certainly doesn’t either. Burnham’s keen eye for curious, objective observation- and his refusal to shut it- is ultimately what transcends Eighth Grade from a passable coming of age drama to a great one.

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