Since my oldest is starting eighth grade in a few weeks, we decided to go see the movie Eighth Grade together. I was not offered free reviewer tickets for this movie, so we went to a $5 Tuesday showing at St. Anthony Main (the home of the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival). Popcorn was $3.00 for more than we could eat and, after the walk from the bus stop, we were happy to help ourselves to their offer of free water. I think we may want to take advantage of this deal more often.
Back to the movie, would I recommend Eighth Grade? My answer depends on who wants to see it.
Eighth Grade is the story of Kayla, who is in the final weeks of middle school as she attempts to navigate modern early adolescents. Many of her problems are the same problems we faced in the 80s and 90s, but she, like our own children, faces the added pressure of instant and on demand social media.
I really loved the trailer for this movie and was excited to go, but I had a hard time getting into the actual movie. The awkwardness of middle school is not something I have any desire to relive. However, by the end, I was in tears, sometimes laughing and crying at the same time. I believe I liked this movie mostly because it gave me time to talk with my 13-year-old daughter about things that are sometimes hard to find openings to discuss. I don’t know that I would go see it if I didn’t have an eighth grader. It was funny and sad and yanked out all the right emotions, but I’m just not into awkward and that’s mostly what this movie (and middle school in general) is about.
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Eighth Grade Trailer Clip
About Eighth Grade
“Thirteen-year-old Kayla endures the tidal wave of contemporary suburban adolescence as she makes her way through the last week of middle school—the end of her thus far disastrous eighth grade year—before she begins high school.”
Parental Guidance for Eighth Grade
This movie has had mixed parental reviews, in large part due to one scene where Kayla searches for explicit material on YouTube regarding oral sex. Is this movie too explicit for actual eighth graders? The scene itself wasn’t really explicit, especially in relation to public school health class. My 12-year-old practiced putting a prophylactic on an anatomically correct model in 7th Grade. This scene is just a girl typing search terms into her computer. The movie doesn’t actually give a pointers in oral sex.
There is another scene right at the beginning of the movie that I found worse then the infamous YouTube scene, where a kid is masturbating under his shirt in health class. That one doesn’t seem to get mentioned in other reviews. It is about 30 seconds, but I felt it was entirely unnecessary to the story.
I know a lot of reviewers said they got up and left during the YouTube scene and that is really too bad, because they deprived their children of the resolution. This movie isn’t really a gross-out movie and sex is only one of the issues Kayla has to confront. Eighth Grade is about navigating the roller coaster of the middle school experience. Often awkward, sometimes heartbreaking, but sometimes wonderful, most kids can’t escape the reality of our society, so they have to figure it out.
There are some really good opportunities for discussion in this film. Here are some things I saw that may be good points of conversation.
- I felt that the “cool kids” seemed just as awkward and unsure of themselves as Kayla. Interestingly, it is a dorky cousin of a cool kid that seems the most sure of himself.
- Kayla spends a lot of time giving advice on her YouTube channel that she hasn’t quite embraced fully herself. Knowing and doing are not always the same thing.
- There is a scene where an older boy is trying to manipulate Kayla into going further than she is interested. She says “No” but continually apologizes to him while he continues to be emotionally manipulative. This was a great time to say, “Hey, never say ‘sorry’ for saying ‘no.'”
- Spoiler: While Kayla never becomes sexually involved during this movie, what if she had? At this age, some of our kids’ friends are sexually active. How do they feel about this? Does one bad choice dictate your life? Can someone admit they made a mistake and then decide to wait?
Personal age recommendation: 13-15 with a parent. Age 13 is the absolute youngest age that I could recommend this movie, not only because of the parental guidance offered above, but because it would bore the heck out of younger kids. On the top age side, I couldn’t imagine this being that great of a movie for older teens or adults who do not have middle grade kids.
This parental guidance is one mom’s opinion (mine), and I always recommend reading other parent’s reviews on Common Sense Media or some other review site geared toward parents.
Final Thoughts on Eighth Grade
The big takeaway from Eighth Grade is that Kayla survives and she’s going to keep on surviving the downs and enjoying the ups of her life. Most people find middle school difficult, but it does get better. This is why I ultimately recommend watching this movie with your young teen and using it for an opportunity to connect and talk about your own early teen experience.
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