Drama films

Eighth Grade Review – Brilliant Adulthood Beginnings | Drama films

AAccepting his first director’s award from the National Board of Review in January, “internet comedian” turned filmmaker Bo Burnham described his brilliantly empathetic debut feature as “an attempt to represent the children who live their lives online“; young people who have been” wrongly presented as self-obsessed, narcissistic, superficial “, but who are in reality” self-aware “.

Ranked by Barack Obama as one of his favorite films of 2018, Eigth year has sparked many intimidating discussions about the fate of ‘Generation Z’ – the post-millennials Burnham artfully identifies as having been ‘forced by a culture they did not create to be self-aware every time. instant ”. Yet for all of its cutting-edge cultural precision (it’s clearly directed by a filmmaker who listened to his young subjects), the true genius of Eigth year is its universality – an honesty and compassion that transcends generational boundaries. As Burnham proves, if you get the right details, the generalities will work out on their own.

Rising star Elsie Fisher is surprisingly natural as Kayla, a socially anxious 13-year-old who is nearing the end of college. Overwhelmingly voted “the quietest” in the class, Kayla struggles to connect with her peers in person, passing silently through the halls of her school. Yet Kayla has a second life online, where she posts cute selfies and self-help videos on “Being Yourself” and “Putting Yourself Out There”. Undeterred by the fact that no one is watching, this endearing soul seems to use her vlogging channel to talk to herself, like the time capsule video message she buried a few years ago as “a gift to a future you. “.

At home, Kayla plugs in headphones to shut out her single father Mark (Josh Hamilton), whose awkwardly proud devotion to his daughter reminded me of Billy Burke’s charming character of Charlie Swan from the dusk movies (a thumb stuck on a broken phone screen signals a modern twist on a fairytale trope).

Mark thinks Kayla is a wonder and has every confidence that she can be part of the “cool” crowd she idolizes from a distance. But even when a parental invitation to a poolside party promises to open new doors, Kayla faces the terrifying prospect of finding herself overwhelmed.

The theme of youth isolation has long been a staple in coming-of-age films, variously explored in films as diverse as that of Catherine Hardwicke. Thirteen, Tomas Alfredson’s Leave the one on the right in, Deniz Gamze Ergüven Mustang and, more recently, that of Deborah Haywood Pin cushion or Jonah Hill’s Mid 90s. It is tempting to place Eigth year in a lineage of American high school movies such as Bad girls and The breakfast club (along with Obama, Molly Ringwald is another high profile fan). Yet like all true coming-of-age classics – from Truffaut’s the four hundred Blows at Céline Sciamma Girls / Girlhood Band and that of Barry Jenkins Moonlight – Burnham’s deeply humanistic film makes audiences feel that what they watch is personal to them, regardless of age, sex or nationality.

It’s also very funny, often in unexpected ways. Whoever has seen by Burnham Repeat stuff video (it’s on YouTube) will know he’s adept at mixing humor and horror, a facet showcased here during a school shooting exercise that turns into a superbly cranky encounter with a creepy crush. Burnham and editor-in-chief Jennifer Lilly understand the burlesque dynamic of long shots, hard cuts, parody slow motion and generate a lot of laughs amid the loneliness of this story. But they also know when to play straight; a predatory scene with an older boy is made all the more powerful by its understatement, heightening the insidious threat.

From the silent scream of her frown to the protective curvature of her shoulders, her face enveloped in her hair, Kayla’s story is eloquently told through Fisher’s perfectly nuanced physical performance. When she smiles, the radiant glow on her face is brighter than that on her iPhone screen. Above all, Burnham finds both joy and kindness in this often grim environment, personified not only by Kayla’s steadfast nature, but also by supporting characters such as Emily Robinson’s Olivia, who offers a glimpse into a bigger future. happy, and Jake Ryan’s Gabe, who features in one of the most exhilarating movie scenes I’ve ever seen.

All of this is underpinned by Anna Meredith’s haunting score, as intrinsically woven into the fabric of the film as Giorgio Moroder’s Oscar-winning electronic accompaniment to Midnight Express or the disconcerting sound explorations of Mica Levi for Under the skin. From pulsating woozy disorientation to spiraling anxiety and transcendent yearning, Meredith’s music strikes the perfect chord throughout, as grippingly expressive and magically immersive as this wonderful film deserves.