A24 has such a great eye for talent, especially in telling strong authentic stories from new filmmakers. This film which was directed and written by YouTuber Bo Burnham, tells the story about a girl named Kayla who is about to graduate the 8th grade and struggling to find her self confidence. I found the film to be so genuine and real. There were many moments when I was uncomfortable, laughing, shocked and overall thrown back to my former self to where I would think back to what I would say to myself now if I started doing YouTube videos in 2003.
I think that Bo Burnham really capture a less glamorous and more authentic version of what it is like to go to Middle School today. There is the natural awkwardness with dealing with popularity, figuring out how to be confidence, and learning how to be yourself and not being ashamed of who you are. The relationship between Kayla and her father felt very real. I liked how he was awkward but yet perfect to where he was secretly supportive of his daughter without being overly creepy/ignorant. I wish there was a bit more clarity around her home life. Though I did appreciate the visuals and writing with her being more isolated, I would like to have known more about her family situation.
Eighth grade is the worst.
Anna Meredith’s scores in the film and the usage of it throughout was well timed and edited. How they set beats along with appropriate emotional moments like when she sees a boy that she likes, the music intensifies. Classic moments like that anyone can relate to when you’re in eighth grade in a public school. Kayla’s relationship with her phone is the main window into her life. Her ability to attain information on social media but yet still stay introverted in social situations is so common with teens today. Her phone became her living lifeline to be able to connect with anyone else her age. The movie even gives visually commentary with the teens living face down into their phones at school all the time.
My only negatives with the film mainly just deal with the anxiety angle that I feel YouTubers successfully conquer in their YouTube videos already. I felt that storyline wasn’t necessary since so many other online creators do that, why not try something else besides that, not every teen has that level of anxiety and makes YouTube videos. But, I did like how the videos she created were a voice over during the actions she was speaking about to show her growth as a person than just showing the video of her talking. I did appreciate the messages the film had to say about being a teenager now and some of the difficulties they experience with peer pressure. There is this one scene in the car that is the most tense moment of the film that feels so real, terrifying and heart pounding that you don’t know what will happen next.
I definitely recommend that this film be seen with parents and kids around this age as a teaching moment for both sides of the equation when it comes to dealing with social issues kids are facing. This is a truly authentic take on being a young girl in today’s society.