Eighth Grade Screening: A Review from a Girl on the Run

Posted by EFranz in on Fri 08/03/2018 10:12
By Lizzy Mills, Girls on the Run St. Louis Alumna
It is undeniable that everyone goes through growing pains in middle school. Be prepared to relive all those moments that you didn't let define your adolescence through Kayla Day. Bo Burnham has created a raw modern middle school experience and what you’ll notice is that some things don’t ever change. There are always mean cool girls and gross guys and parents that just don’t understand. Kayla’s journey through dealing with her self-image, confidence and navigating the challenges of growing up in a digital world is raw and unfiltered, unlike the world most preteens see through their screens. Burnham has brilliantly recreated the middle school experience before our eyes. Throughout the whole movie you are feeling everything with Kayla: the embarrassment, the awkwardness, the anxiety. The whole audience was experiencing it and reacting together.
We meet Kayla (Elsie Fisher) as she is finishing her last week of eighth grade. Unsure how middle school went by without any profound change, she begins to slowly put herself out there. In doing so she learns more about who she is and who she wants to be. There are ups and downs and everything in between. She deals with fitting in and standing up for herself. Her dad struggles through figuring out how to be there for her. As Kayla gets to know herself you will fall in love with her. Her anxiety and happiness will become your own. Fisher is spectacular. She delivers a full hearted and heart wrenching performance. She fearlessly embraces her character. Fisher channels something real that all of us go through. What I loved most about Kayla’s character was how real she looked. She wasn’t done up with hollywood makeup, her pimples left uncovered. She wore clothes that you would actually find in an eighth graders closet. She looked real which added authenticity to her story. 
Photos by Linda  Kallerus, Courtesy of A24           
Burnham’s crafting of Kayla’s character reveals something that most adults have forgotten: middle schoolers are capable of real and intense emotion and their youth is their strength, not their weakness. Burnham spares no details in this script. He refuses to let you escape the awkwardness and discomfort. He forces you to remember how it feels to be young, insecure and unsure again. The movie is well thought out and carefully crafted. The pace of the film is painfully real, you feel like you are with her in real time. You are not watching her on a screen; instead, you are sitting with her in the car and at the table. It is a story of what comes next  and at the end of the day Kayla is endlessly optimistic and fearless.  
Girls On The Run and Eighth Grade share the same mission of making sure middle school girls feel less alone. In a time of transition and change, both offer reassurance that you're not the only one feeling this way. Maybe Kayla’s experience would have been different if she had had a program like Girls On The Run to guide her but either way her story is our story. I highly recommend going to see your story on screen. 
Lizzy Mills will be a freshmen at Loyola Marymount University in the fall where she will be studying Screenwriting and Peace Studies. She is St.Louis born and a recent graduate of Clayton High School. She is a GOTR Alum and was a part of the program through elementary school. Since her Girls On The Run days Lizzy has been active in promoting social justice by participating in programs like Cultural Leadership and supporting her local community.