Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

While visiting Oak Park a few weeks back, the husband and I decided to take in one of those independent movies that doesn’t come down this way very often.

eighth grade posterWatching Eighth Grade was like seeing one of those movies that felt true to life. It’s a slice of life story that seems to be about nothing. It is rated R so the kids who would recognize everything depicted as true and everything depicted as false can’t get to see this movie on their own. Parents have to be willing to take their own eighth graders to this movie. But also be prepared to talk about it afterwards.

The story is about a girl during her final week of eighth grade. Kayla is a quiet shy girl who makes videos on how to be more confident or how to be yourself. That doesn’t mean she actually does these things but nor does she not try. Her stories come from the point of view to classmates she wants to be like.

But this girl is also looking forward to high school in the hopes that things will be different. She clicks with her mentor immediately, which gives Kayla hope. She also has a huge crush on the cutest boy in class and wonders how to make him more than an acquaintance. Meanwhile, Dad is trying to connect with his daughter. He is genuinely concerned about his daughter and tries to be supportive as he daughter makes the big transition to high school.

There were times I wondered where this movie was going. It moves slow and sometimes our lead character is contradictory in her actions. She pretends in her videos to be more outgoing than she really is.

But in the end, I saw this girl grow and change. We see her being awkward and afraid and reclusive till she decides not to be these things.

eighth grade kayla n dadThis is one of those movies that doesn’t have a lot of action. But Kayla needs to be brave and we watch her grow her emotional strength. It would not surprise me if this movie becomes an Oscar TM contender, considering the honest and raw performance given by Elsie Fisher as Kayla. Josh Hamilton also comes through with a strong performance as a dad trying to figure out his daughter, a beautiful kind girl trying to find her way.

Kid actors can overplay a role and not be consistent. But Elise Fisher completes all of the right moves in this role. She makes Kayla vulnerable and afraid and brave.

Now I do need to warn you that there is some swearing in this movie. There are moments that are uncomfortable because it features some sexuality that is unwanted,. How Kayla responds is what keeps you watching.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.