Eighth Grade is a film that looked superb from the trailer, but was one of those indie films that I knew would get short shrift from the multiplexes, so watching it on Blu-ray would be the answer when the release came round.
The review disc arrived, but… had the release date slipped? Well, a bit more time went by and I realised that the film has come out as a download, but any signs of physical media have disappeared! It took me a while to realise that, since quite often, the release schedules I check will show a digital version coming out a week or two before a physical release. So, where did the physical version go? I’ll answer that later in the review…
Anyhoo, I wanted to see this, so here we are, and if you’re unfamiliar with what the title means, it’s the year where kids will age between 13-14. For me, that was the third year in Senior School, and the time when I went on a school trip to Russia, coming home just two weeks before the Chernobyl explosion in April 1986. In the US, it’s the time just before you start high school.
The film centres around 13-year-old Kayla (Elsie Fisher – The Addams Family 2019), who makes vlogs for Youtube, and is influenced by other Youtubers, such as one giving an everyday make-up tutorial. In fact, as we all know, the youth of today are obsessed with creating the right selfie for Instagram. For myself, I hate having myself in a picture – I always think my soul disappears into the camera! Then again, I felt the same when I was also 13 going on 14.
Her Dad, Mark (Josh Hamilton), clearly wants to desperately communicate with Kayla, but she’s obsessed with spending the entire day on her phone, even to the point of sacrificing conversation at dinner. He’s also constantly wanting to try and understand what’s on her mind, and what she wants to do in life, but feels constantly shut out – but then that’s what happens when you’re a teenager: everything that’s about you is something you want to keep private.
Along the way, she attends the birthday party for Kennedy (Catherine Oliviere), the most popular girl in her school, who gets everything she wants. So, she’s going to be uber-anxious to attend it. Will it go well, or as badly as she fears? In her vlogs, she talks about facing her fears, but does that include talking to Aiden (Luke Prael), the boy of her dreams?
Either way, I was anxious just watching this, but I can also see things from the other side in that as Kennedy and her ‘cool’ friends are wrapped up in what’s happening on their phones. With hindsight, as an adult, I can see that they’re doing that because they’re exhibiting the same lack of confidence as Kayla.
At other points in the film, she gets to spend a day at high school, as preparation for when she has to go there for real, next year; and there’s a comedic moment when one lad is seen jacking off in a lesson that’s meant to be a talk about the birds and the bees, even though it’s given in the form of a pre-recorded video. She also makes a vlog about ‘putting yourself out there’, even though her vlogs get hardly any views. However, there is a twist to what’s behind her vlogs, as you’ll find out before too long.
Elsie Fisher is brilliant in the role of the confused teenager who wants to discover boys, but is just beyond shy, whilst going through all the highs and lows of growing up.
As a final note, the film has been rated 15-certificate in the UK – and an R in the US – because of the content surrounding Kayla’ se -xual awakening, as well as some occasional fruity language. However, this naturally annoyed teenagers in the US who wanted to understandably watch it, and thus, free screenings were made available to some at the time of its release. It’s definitely as valid a coming-of-age tale now, as films like The Breakfast Club were to me in the ’80s. That was also a 15-cert/R-rated movie for the same reasons, and should also be seen by those younger than its certificated audience.
“Good job” to writer/director Bo Burnham for making such a superb film which will not only be relevant to today’s teenagers, but also for those for at least the next 30 years.
There’s just a few extras on this disc, but ones where they’re all worth watching, which is what you can’t say about most other releases:
- Deleted Scenes: Most Quiet (2:15) and Gabe (7:00): I would definitely put the first one back in, as it relates to Kayla and a boy winning the school award for being the most quiet in their year, leading to a scene which has precious little dialogue, but it’s the looks they give.
The second is more of an extended version.
- You’re Not Alone: Life in Eighth Grade (14:11): A general ‘making of’, mixing in behind-the-scenes clips with chat from the cast and crew, and how everything that happens in this film can be things that happen to all of us.
- Kayla Montage (2:10): A selection of scenes featuring the troubled teen in dialogue-free outtakes. I tried to find out the name of the track behind this, and Shazam came up with a different one each time!
- Music video (2:26): Clips from the film given a psychedelic treatment and set to Nautilus by Anne Meredith. Very trippy….
- Audio commentary: from writer/director Bo Burnham and lead Elsie Fisher.
The main menu features music from the film mixed with clips from the film. There are 16 chapters, and subtitles are in English only.
Eighth Grade is out now on Amazon Video, and I’ll also give links for Blu-ray and DVD, but note that these latter two are US releases on Region A Blu-ray and Region 1 DVD, so when buying in the UK, first ensure that you have a multi-region player.
As things turned out, the Blu-ray was a limted run HMV Exclusive, so while I occasionally come across movies which have a DVD and digital release but no Blu-ray, this one marks the first ever time I’ve come across a release which has a Blu-ray, but no DVD! Anyhoo, however you see this film, DO make sure you see it, as it’s great.
Running time: 91 minutes
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD-MA 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH
Format: 1.85:1 (DCP)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Bo Burnham
Producers: Eli Bush, Scott Rudin, Christopher Storer, Lila Yacoub
Screenplay: Bo Burnham
Music: Anna Meredith
Kayla Day: Elsie Fisher
Mark Day: Josh Hamilton
Olivia: Emily Robinson
Gabe: Jake Ryan
Riley: Daniel Zolghadri
Trevor: Fred Hechinger
Aniyah: Imani Lewis
Aiden: Luke Prael
Kennedy: Catherine Oliviere
Steph: Nora Mullins
Tyler: Gerald W Jones
Mrs. Graves: Missy Yager
Mason: Shacha Temirov
Mr. McDaniel: Greg Crowe
Edmund: Thomas John O’Reilly
Officer Todd: Frank Deal
Mr. Graves: J Tucker Smith
Babs: Tiffany Grossfeld
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.