Anxiety. It’s a nasty beast many of us have to deal with. The anxious feeling can crop up anytime, whether it’s during a social event, a lonely evening or a busy work meeting. It’s always there, boiling below the surface, being silent but once it’s out there, it’s unbearable and keeping it together becomes extremely difficult.
If there’s one movie that embodies the crushing pressure of feeling anxious, it’s “All My Friends Hate Me”, the first full-length film from Andrew Gaynord (“Stath Lets Flats”). Together with writers duo Tom Palmer (“Man of the Hour “, “Pigeons”) and Tom Stourton, they bring a typical British horror-comedy to the big screen.
Despite having some flaws, “All My Friends Hate Me” perfectly captures the fear of feeling that everyone’s against you, that you won’t live up to society’s standard and that all your friends hate you.
To celebrate his 30th birthday, soon-to-be-engaged refugee worker Peter (Stourton) organises a reunion with his university friends. After not seeing each other for almost eight years, he expects a celebratory week full of fun, laughter and chats. However, right from the beginning, it seems that this get-together might not be what he expected it to be.
The old-fashioned countryside manner in which the celebrations take place has a doom-and-gloom vibe, and Pete’s friends seem to have forgotten the reunion. When they finally arrive, his euphoria declines instantly when he notices the presence of the local stranger Harry (Dustin Demri-Burns), his friends met at the pub.
Harry not only steals Pete’s thunder but also seems to pick on him purposely. Peter becomes very uncomfortable around Harry, even more so when it appears his friends care more about this outsider than him. They take Harry’s side during every argument and are not interested in listening to Pete’s story and problems.
Pete hopes that his troubles, fear, and distrust will disappear once his fiancée Sonia (Charly Clive) arrives at the mansion. However, his unease, suspicions and paranoia only worsen when that moment comes. Is he really suffering from paranoia, or is just a way to dark prank from his friends?
If you’ve seen “Stath Lets Flats”, you know that Gaylord has a knack for creating socially awkward moments and dark, witty humour. These elements make “All My Friends Hate Me” an excellent film. If you love watching uncomfortable moments on screen, then this movie is absolutely something for you.
Pete is going through more uncomfortable situations than he should, and when he starts questioning everything he says or does, cringing moments follow each other at fast speed. Whether it’s awkwardly and unwillingly having to share the bathroom, being forgotten by friends on multiple occasions or feeling like he’s not going anywhere, it’s all present in this film. When tension is slowly built, the more we get into Pete’s head, the more we start to doubt what’s real and what’s not.
“All My Friends Hate Me” describes itself as a horror-comedy movie, and while the dark comedy is present in bucket loads, the horror element is much more nuanced. The only horrifying aspect is having to deal with anxiety. Do his friends hate Pete? Is Pete going insane? It’s not knowing the answers to these questions and the very fitting score by Will Lowes (“BareFace: A Night of Mistakes”) and Joe Robbins (“BareFace: A Night of Mistakes”) that keep you on your toes throughout the movie. However, while the disturbing feeling is always present, don’t expect any gore or bloody moments. “All My Friends Hate Me” isn’t just a horror movie like that.
The ensemble cast does a great job of delivering a nuanced, inspiring and steady performance. There’s certainly the fear that the performances will become over-the-top, but everyone always finds the right balance between humour, darkness and awkwardness. It’s especially Stourton (“Horrible Histories: The Movie”, “Tales From the Lodge”) who shines throughout the entire movie.
Whether it’s the happy moments (what an uplifting moment The Dobbie Brothers’ “What A Fool Believes” sing-a-long was) or the moments as the genuinely hurt and delusional Pete, Stourton delivers it with a lot of grace and impeccable timing. From feeling ashamed to reacting outrageously at well-meant text messages and from having awkward conversations to apologising unnecessarily, Stourton brings it all to life perfectly.
It’s just frustrating that the storyline itself goes in circles throughout the movie. It soon becomes clear that every scene will involve Pete feeling anxious, his friends not being there for him and Harry clearly getting under his skin. While there’s undoubtedly an eerie atmosphere and dark tone, something seems to be missing. However, during the last ten-fifteen minutes, the story takes a highly unexpected and much-needed turn, which will take you over the finish line.
Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival and BFI Film Festival London last year, “All My Friends Hate Me” now gets the cinematic release it deserves. While the movie has some storyline problems and the jokes, drama and horror elements feel a bit repetitive, the climax, the typical British humour and the stunning performances ensure you enjoy this dark comedy movie.
“All My Friends Hate Me” is now out in U.K. cinemas
12th June 2022
THE QUICK SELL
Pete is cautiously excited about reuniting with his college crew for a birthday weekend. But, one by one, his friends slowly turn against him. Is he being punished, is he paranoid, or is he part of some sick joke?