All My Friends Hate Me, 2022.
Directed by Andrew Gaynord.
Starring Tom Stourton, Georgina Campbell, Charly Clive, Antonia Clarke, Joshua McGuire, Dustin Demri-Burns, Graham Dickson, Christopher Fairbank, and Kieran Hodgson.
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?
If All My Friends Hate Me deserves credit for anything, it would be keeping viewers in the dark on its purpose. The problem with that is that once the movie is over, its purpose, presented in the form of a mean-spirited punchline, feels like a slap in the face regarding several other points and messages director Andrew Gaynord (working with screenwriters Tom Palmer and Tom Stourton) teased. One aspect of the finale sees the protagonist coming clean about something (a somewhat telegraphed secret that we don’t know the specifics of) in a dark manner that gets under one’s skin and redefines the character on screen, shedding light on certain personality traits. It’s a reveal that belongs in a much better movie, one that isn’t ready to use it as a throwaway moment for something else.
Unfortunately, the critical issues with All My Friends Hate Me have to be kept vague. It is one of those movies that primarily exists in a state of intrigue, repetition, mild predictability, and confusion where it’s hard to decide if you’re enjoying what you are watching until you do know where it’s going. Fortunately, for these filmmakers, not even a sour ending can take away from the thick paranoia and anxiety that they do muster up for 90 minutes, often with disarming cinematography and silence (there’s a scene where one character sneaks up on another with a rifle that is tensely crafted as something out of a horror movie).
The story centers on Pete (co-writer Tom Stourton performing double duty), headed up to a countryside manor to celebrate his birthday and reunite with some college friends (the place is owned by one of their fathers). Pete is also upfront with his current girlfriend Sonia (Charly Clive) that they used to do stupid things and that his former partner Claire (Antonia Clarke) will be guests. He seems aware that the past was full of mistakes and the usual frat antics but has matured and believes that his friends have also done so.
There’s already a bad start to the weekend when Pete has trouble finding the luxurious home, encountering a homeless man abusing a dog and hiding out in his car, and then coming across an idiosyncratic older man (Christopher Fairbank) that gives off murderer vibes before kindly giving accurate directions. Once he parks his car and enters the home, his friends are not there. So he waits and waits under the impression that he has been pranked, at least until they finally walk in and mention that they were down at the pub and had no idea he would be there so early.
It also turns out his friends have not matured one bit, still quick to do hard drugs, shoot some birds, play mind games with one another (one of them mentions that Claire attempted suicide when they broke up and not to say that he is thinking about proposing to Sonia, only for someone to spill the beans anyway), and generally act like unpleasant assholes. Meanwhile, Pete has his life together and loves to mention that he works in a refugee camp. With that in mind, All My Friends Hate Me is not a movie about a group of friends giving their adulting friend shit so he can ease up and unwind and live life a little; the majority of them do legitimately awful things only for the filmmakers to take their side. They also happen to be a smug and self-absorbed rich bunch, aside from the stranger at the pub that joins the group, who seems to have it out for Pete more for some inexplicable reason.
Most frustratingly, the story somewhat goes in circles until the final 10 minutes, where everything is revealed (or maybe nothing is revealed). Admittedly, there is an eerie atmosphere, and the tone does a good job at making one paranoid right alongside Pete, but for some of the most unsatisfying reasons imaginable. Again, even when the film is somewhat onto something incredibly dark that is clicking, it’s almost as if the filmmakers don’t even realize what they have, promptly flushing it down the toilet. All My Friends Hate Me appears to have been conceptualized with too many ideas in mind that are so badly handled that they offset the otherwise tense craftsmanship on display.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com