I was once an eighth grader myself and I parented two sons through that phase. Those experiences however have little in common with what it is like to be an eighth grader today in a world dominated by technology, where navigating relationships on Instagram and Snap Chat is perilous and where trying to figure out who you are apart from your social media presence seems impossible. The movie Eighth Grade which I saw on Monday night with friends does an amazing job of taking you into the world of young teens and showing you just how strange and difficult and awkward it can be to find your way through that social milieu.
The young girl at the center of the film Kayla lives with her father who has been her single parent since she was just a toddler. He is such a good dad! Concerned, caring, trying to give his daughter space to make choices but at the same time letting her know he is always there for her. Kayla is at a point of such low self esteem but her father makes it clear he thinks she’s a great kid!
The father Mark Day played by Josh Hamilton clearly believes being a good father is the most important thing in his life. He has a job but he doesn’t appear to let work or his social life interfere with his clear priority to just ‘be around’ so whenever his daughter does want to talk or she is upset he’s there.
The movie is great on many levels- from fifteen year old Elsie Fisher’s amazing performance as Kayla- to wonderful but cringe worthy scenes like the one where Kayla has a date with a loveable but totally nerdy boy she met at a party- to the truly scary scenes like the one where a highschool guy tries to take advantage of Kayla’s need to be liked and accepted.
I’d recommend the movie first and foremost though for parents of young teens because the Dad in this movie although he is bumbling and gets it wrong sometimes, and can drive his daughter wild, is basically stoic and caring and provides a textbook example of how to parent an eighth grader with unconditional love and a reassuring presence.