NEW TO HULU! Uproarious. Disturbing. Melancholic. Shrewd. All adjectives that the marketing teams behind Andrew Gaynord’s terrific dark comedy All My Friends Hate Me are welcome to use for promotional purposes. Only no single word will do this minor masterpiece justice. An off-kilter study of one’s skewed perception of reality and alienation, the film is bound to hit a nerve while slaying with its acerbic wit.
After an encounter that’s horrific and side-splitting in equal measures, Pete (Tom Stourton) finally finds his way to his own 31st birthday/reunion party, taking place at a college buddy’s remote mansion in the British countryside. Only when he arrives, no one’s there. By the time Pete’s friends come back from the pub – led by a local weirdo called Harry (Dustin Demri-Burns) and a goose – Pete’s sleepy and bitter and not a little awkward. Or is it his friends? Are they all acting a little… off?
Things go from bad to worse quickly. Pete’s crew seems to turn on him, making fun of him, telling him he’s doing all the wrong things, leaving him stranded. They force him to go hunting – perhaps one of the most ominous hunting trips depicted cinematically – and then get upset because he didn’t shoot any birds. No one cares about his stories of helping refugee children. His former romance with Claire (Antonia Clarke) becomes an issue. “You’re not off to a good start,” Fig (Georgina Campbell) accuses him.
“…finally finds his way to his own 31st birthday/reunion party…no one’s there.”
And then there’s Harry. Harry, who takes notes, as if recording Pete’s habits and mannerisms. Harry who chases him down a hill with an axe as a practical joke. Harry who sets up a birthday roast that goes way too far. Harry, who seems so familiar… Does Pete know Harry? Have Pete’s friends concocted some sort of a sick scenario to level him with dirt? Has he matured while they’re all stuck clinging to the past? Or is it Pete all along, behaving like a douchebag, completely unaware of his own behavior? What past sins is he atoning for? More importantly: who killed the goose?
The tension and hilarity of All My Friends Hate Me hinges on that spellbinding ambiguity, superbly maintained by the director. The fact that it’s his first feature-length feature makes the achievement that much more impressive. He balances tones delicately but is also unafraid to throw a wrench here and there to catch his viewer off-guard. “You’re just a bit anxious,” Claire tells a freaked-out Pete. “It’s nothing new, right?”
As robust as Gaynord’s helming is, it’s the delicate balance of tones, the crisp cinematography, and of course, the acting that ultimately renders the film such a success. A lot hinges on Stourton’s incredulous reactions to the world unraveling before his eyes. The actor, who co-wrote the screenplay, seems perfectly attuned with the director’s vision, achieving the impressive feat of being both vulnerable and egotistical, charming and arrogant. Dustin Demri-Burns marks another standout, stealing his scenes. “It’s true then. You are the shy one,” Harry states, after grabbing Pete’s private parts in the bath.
All My Friends Hate Me examines social norms and what happens when preconceived notions and expectations are rapidly shattered. It also delves deep into the perils of advancing middle age. We’ve all had days when we felt like our friends turn on us. Most times, it’s in our heads. But what if it’s not? Here’s one word to describe Gaynord’s gem: wow.
ALL MY FRIENDS HATE ME screened at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.
"…no single word will do this minor masterpiece justice..."