DIRECTOR: Andrew Gaynord

CAST: Tom Stourton, Georgina Campbell, Joshua McGuire, Antonia Clarke, Kieran Hodgson, Charly Clive, Dustin Demri-Burns, Christopher Fairbank, Graham Dickson

RUNNING TIME: 94 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: Pete (Stourton) becomes paranoid when he and his old friends get together for the weekend…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

Whatever opinion you might come away from All My Friends Hate Me with, it’s hard to deny that it understands its core audience: insecure, anxiety-driven millennials who have always had a fear in the back of their mind that, among their group of friends, they are most likely the lame duck of the bunch.

It’s these types of people that are satirised in this hour-and-a-half panic attack, balanced neatly by heaps of awkward humour and an underlying creepiness that veers dangerously close to – and sometimes even dips its toes into – full-on psychological horror, never an easy balance but still achieved through smart writing by duo Tom Stourton and Tom Palmer (collectively known in the comedy world as Totally Tom).

One of these Toms – Stourton, to be exact – also stars in the film as Pete, a young man in his early thirties who, fresh from returning overseas for a volunteering gig at a refugee camp, goes to celebrate his birthday at a stately home in the countryside. There, he intends to spend his birthday weekend reunited with his old university chums – including his ex Claire (Antonia Clarke), married couple George (Joshua McGuire) and Fig (Georgina Campbell), and super-posh Archie (Graham Dickson) – but upon arrival he finds that the house is empty, with nobody to greet him. When the friends do eventually arrive back from the pub, they’re not much more courteous, especially when they reveal that they’ve brought someone back with them: a strange, country-accented guy named Harry (Dustin Demri-Burns) whom Pete immediately senses something off with, although everyone else think he’s an absolute riot.

What follows is an increasingly uncomfortable mix of paranoia and millennial anxiety, certainly played for laughs but also in a way that legitimately gets under your skin. The whole time, as with Pete, you are never entirely sure what exactly the hell is going on, or why his friends are now acting so openly hostile toward him with that kind of undermining, but no less stinging passive-aggression that comes with its own brand of gaslighting, or especially what they all see in this unpleasant and off-putting random guy they’ve willingly brought home with them. Crucially, however, it’s also made clear that there’s something not quite right about Pete either; he’s the type of guy who will hype himself up as the life and soul of the party (his grand entrance music to the stately manor is none other than that instantly recognisable dance anthem “Sandstorm” by Darude), only to then bail on social situations by heading to bed before everyone else, and dampen the mood by bringing up his volunteering work at every available opportunity. Stourton and Palmer’s script – brought to life by director Andrew Gaynord – neatly plays Devil’s advocate on both sides, offering valid arguments for why either Pete or his increasingly volatile friends are reasonable in their discomfort, but also for why their irrational meanness may not be warranted – or even real. It makes for some intriguing dynamics which are only fully revealed right at the very end, and even then there’s a whiff of uncertainty by the time it finally cuts to black.

There is that unnerving feeling throughout most of All My Friends Hate Me, as the main character’s paranoia and insecurity keeps building more and more upon itself until it reaches a truly alarming point, but it’s also a psychological film that remembers to have a funny side to the absolute horror on show. Stourton makes for a compelling lead, as you firmly believe his growing sense of dread while also rolling your eyes at his own privilege; although he’s not wealthy or fully upper-class to the extent that some of his friends are, it’s clear that Pete still comes from some kind of advantageous background, so there is also that feeling of internal class warfare that only people within that inner circle will understand, something that the actor gets down to an almost unbearable tee (that, and his cringe-inducing self-hyping). His and Palmer’s script makes you feel constantly uneasy even in the lighter moments of comedy, for you’ll be groaning when Pete is doing an impression of a strange older gent he encounters on the way over – followed by one hell of a slow curtain reveal – and even more so when a friend does an incredibly unnerving (not to mention piss-poor) imitation of Jimmy Saville. However, they do still manage to generate tons of laughter, no matter how awkward and uncomfortable they may be, which the script does well to maintain through its darker parts.

It’s an impressive debut feature for both the film’s director and its two writers, who capture all too accurately that feeling of absolute dread when around the people you assumingly care about the most, and translate that into an endless source of nervous laughter. It doesn’t always work, for you can sense some of the budget limitations in the film’s rather tame climax, and some of the awkward humour can go a bit too far into unnecessarily mean-spirited territory, but for what this creative team have been given to work with, they’ve delivered a funny, smart and profoundly anxiety-causing blend of comedy and psychological horror in the same vein as Uncut Gems and Shiva Baby.

It’s definitely worth a watch, but maybe not with your closest friends (just in case).

SO, TO SUM UP…

All My Friends Hate Me is a neatly observed blend of awkward millennial comedy and full-on psychological horror, which is smartly constructed by writers Tom Stourton (who also make a compelling lead) and Tom Palmer who find both the humour and the terror in feeling like the odd one out in social groups.

All My Friends Hate Me is now showing in cinemas nationwide – click here to find a screening near you!

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