In this edgy film we are constantly uncomfortable along with lead actress Elsie Fisher, who plays Kayla, an eighth grader. Making us uneasy with her life is exactly what her fine performance should be doing in this growing up film.
Director, Bo Burnham, shows Kayla with marks on her face when she is under pressure or not secure but when a day works better for her her face is clear of the acne which mars her face. Most of the time she is tense and clumsy and when her father attempts to reach out to her, she is not secure enough to reach back.
She is not popular but as most kids her age she wishes she was, and attempts to talk to the mean girls who ignore and taunt her. The most difficult day is spent at a popular student’s birthday party. Kayla doesn’t look good in a swim suit and is uncomfortable with her body. She walks bent down from her waist and quickly heads into the pool. Fisher makes each of us as unsettled as her character is, she is that effective.
Kayla begins to grow when befriended by an upper class person, Olivia, (Emily Robinson) during her step-up day from eighth grade to high school. She is strong enough to reject uncomfortable advances by an older student and that appears to be the beginning of a new Kayla.
Director, Burnham allows us to watch and experience the difficult trek that is her last year of middle school, as she watches information films about her body, accepts rejections, believing what comes in on her cell phone and telling the world about her journey on a blog that ends when she reaches high school.
What could have been a dull experience to view, is a tense difficult to watch skillfully performed work by Fisher who carries us through as if we were back in eight grade attempting to survive.