(Netflix Streaming, December 2019) To be unusually candid, I see Eighth Grade as a horror film rather than a coming-of-age drama, and it has everything to do with being a father who will have to confront the issues raised by the film within a few too-short years. I wouldn’t want to romanticize growing up in a small Eastern-Ontario town in the 1980s, but I don’t quite feel that the urban 2020s are going to be any easier. Yes, there’s more diversity, awareness and acceptable role models. On the other hand, we now have social media reflecting the worst of human impulses, teens aspiring to meet dangerous expectations, easily accessible depictions of sex, violence and abuse … it’s enough to make any parent feel inadequate despite trying our best. Few would have expected young comedian turned writer-director Bo Burnham (who rose to prominence on YouTube) to deliver a nuanced, sensitive, heart-wrenching take on the topic but here we are: Eighth Grade is the film of the moment when it comes to depicting modern eighth graders. They have access to the most extensive set of tools ever assembled for self-expression, but they can be bullied through their phones, manipulated into dangerous behaviour and terrified to the point of debilitating anxiety and depression. As excruciatingly uncomfortable as Eighth Grade can be to watch (remember me calling it a horror film?), at least it’s ultimately a sweet, kind-hearted film. Its very likable heroine (an uncommonly natural performance from Elsie Fisher) eventually makes it through, taking correct decision when her back is against the wall—the not-so-fun part are the events that drive her to that position. It does an amazing job at being of the moment: if you believe (as I do) that creators often get stuck on a specific year and spend the rest of their careers harkening back to that time, it’s refreshing to see a perspective that fully integrates the world as it feels right now, and not as something like “the 1980s, with cell phones.” I may not want to see Eighth Grade again, but I probably will—it’s a tough world out there, and my daughter is going to need all the help I can give her.