Junior High, for most of us, is the worst age to look back on. I remember the summer after eighth grade, I grew something like four inches, all arms and legs and horrifying stretch marks. Bad skin. Hair that won’t behave. Blossoming mean girls rule the hallway, and even if you aren’t invisible, they make you feel that way.
Eighth Grade‘s Kayla (Elsie Fisher) is confident and chatty on her vlog, offering advice (buried in “likes,” “uhs,” and “you knows”) to other kids, projecting the persona that she feels she is on the inside. Despite this, bless her heart, she gets hardly any views on her videos, and her carefully staged selfies have no audience. On the outside, you see, she is voted quietest kid in her class (oh, to see her face implode when she hears this…), and doesn’t seem to have any friends. She’s not picked on or anything, she’s just one of the invisible kids.
The sweet thing (among many sweet things about this film) is that her dad (Josh Hamilton) not only thinks, but knows she’s a cool kid (like we, as viewers do), and that she will turn out fine. We see her go through horrifying moments, like being made to go alone to a popular kid’s birthday pool party (where the mean girl opens gifts in front of all, and treats Kayla’s benign gift like it is coated in cooties). We wring our hands for her safety in a quietly scary moment with an older boy in a car. And our hearts swell when we see a genuinely nice high school girl treat her like the awesome kid that we know that she is.
Eighth Grade is made up of a bunch of little moments like this, with no big culmination or climax (like prom or a kiss). But I feel like it is a minor miracle that this movie exists: Dorky tween girls never get to be the center of movies, so what a sweet treat this is.