Eighth Grade Parent Guide
A mesmerizing performance by Elsie Fisher as a socially awkward teen navigating the pitfalls of middle school with courage and hope.
Parent Movie Review
Parent Previews does not normally review Restricted movies. However, we do make occasional exceptions for films which are aimed at teens or which raise important issues for parents and families.
For parents, Eighth Grade is a cross between a horror film and a documentary. With almost anthropological detail it focuses on the struggles and heartaches of a 13-year-old girl in her last week of middle school. What the movie illuminates about adolescence in the internet age is enough to keep most parents up at night.
Eighth Grade tells the story of Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher), a shy, socially awkward introvert who craves friends and a sense of belonging. Toward that end, Kayla devotes an enormous amount of energy to her social media presence, constantly seeking the perfect selfie, and checking the response to her pictures. She also makes and posts upbeat videos where she provides life advice to her very small audience. Sadly for Kayla, none of her efforts pay off with digital or real life popularity.
Eventually Kayla does attract some attention, yet it is definitely the wrong kind. Desperately seeking attention from her crush, Kayla tells him she keeps dirty pictures on her phone. He asks her if she performs a specific sexual act to which she responds in the affirmative. She then goes home and looks it up on the internet. Kayla is appalled at what she finds and viewers will also be unhappy with her search results, especially when one involves a brief image of transparent plastic male genitalia. On another occasion, a male character gets in the back seat of his car with Kayla, removes his shirt and tries to manipulate her into removing hers. This episode is disturbing for many reasons but two stand out: first, the boy insists that he is doing this for her own good – so that she won’t “suck” the first time she has an “experience”. And second, Kayla abjectly apologizes to the boy for refusing to participate. Watching her repeated apologies left me alternating between sorrow and white hot rage on Kayla’s behalf.
Despite the uncomfortable sexual content in this film, there are some positive messages as well. Most of these center around Kayla, whose courage and resilience are genuinely inspiring. Actress Elsie Fisher delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as she fearlessly exposes Kayla’s strengths and vulnerabilities. Viewers see Kayla earnestly following YouTube make up tutorials in front of her mirror, which is surrounded by motivational and inspirational quotes. We watch her have a panic attack as she changes into her unflattering swimming suit at a pool party where she doesn’t have any friends. We see her, nervous but brave, reach for the karaoke mic at the same party. As Kayla says in one of her videos, “Confidence is a choice. You can just start acting like it even if you don’t have any. A big part of being confident is being brave. And you can’t be brave without being scared.” Sign me up for a Team Kayla t-shirt.
The other positive message in this movie comes from Kayla’s father Mark (Josh Hamilton). Earnest, affectionate and completely bemused by his daughter’s behavior, this dad gets an “A” for effort. He keeps trying to talk, even when Kayla is glued to her phone. He apologizes when he gets it wrong. And when Kayla breaks down in hopeless tears, he is right there, holding her close and saying the right things. Parents who have shared Mark’s perplexity will appreciate the authentic portrayal of this loving father.
Due to the sexual content issues in this movie, it is difficult to give it a blanket recommendation. Parents who want to understand today’s adolescent reality might want to make time for this film. Those who chose to watch it with their teens, should be prepared for an open and frank conversation, because Eighth Grade will definitely spark some after movie discussion.Directed by Bo Burnham. Starring Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson. Running time: 93 minutes. Theatrical release July 13, 2018. Updated October 17, 2018
Rating & Content Info
Why is Eighth Grade rated R? Eighth Grade is rated R by the MPAA for language and some sexual material.
Violence: The school conducts an active shooter drill: the students are lined up in the hallway as a masked adult walks down the corridor, randomly “shooting” students with a firearm. One student is shown with a bullet wound on her head which was made with make-up. The “victims” were pre-selected drama students.
Sexual Content: During health class, a student is apparently masturbating. His actions are hidden under his shirt. References are made to sexting. A minor male character asks the protagonist if she performs a particular sexual activity. She goes home and looks it up on the internet. Some search results are shown, but no nudity. There is a brief glimpse of transparent plastic male genitalia. Another male character removes his t-shirt and tries to manipulate the protagonist into removing hers.
There are over two dozen uses of course or sexual language. A character makes a sexual hand gesture with both hands. A sexual expletive is used on three occasions. A slang term for male genitalia is used repeatedly. A scatological curse word is used a few times as are some moderate profanities. A term of Christian deity is used.
Alcohol / Drug Use: No drugs or alcohol are consumed but a middle school student is sniffing a marker in class.
Page last updated October 17, 2018
Eighth Grade Parents' Guide
Kayla shows signs of an anxiety disorder – a panic attack at the pool party and describing herself as constantly feeling nervous and full of butterflies. A growing body of research links social media with a significant increase in depression and anxiety amongst adolescents. Do you think this relationship is real?
Kayla’s father keeps trying to communicate with her but she would rather be on her phone. Do you think this is a problem? Do you think parents should limit the amount of time their teens spend on their phones or other electronic devices? Should parents limit their own technology use?
News About "Eighth Grade"
Eighth Grade is opening in limited release in the USA. It opens in select Canadian markets on July 20, 2018.
The most recent home video release of Eighth Grade movie is October 9, 2018. Here are some details…
Related home video titles:Another tween finds life difficult until he makes a friend in The Mighty. An older girl struggles with home and school in The Edge of Seventeen.
Freaky Friday provides a more lighthearted portrayal of early adolescence when a mother and daughter switch bodies. In 13 Going on 30, a teen who wants to grow up too fast magically gets her wish – but it doesn't bring her the happiness she hoped for.