Tuesday 14 June 2022

All My Friends Hate Me (UK 2021: Dir Andrew Gaynord) NEW WAVE OF THE BRITISH FANTASTIC FILM 2022

Gaynord's TV based career (he directed the most recent season of the excellent Stath Lets Flats) has been a good grounding for his feature debut; it's a tragi-comedy - barely a 'fantastic' film at all in truth - that deals in the comedy of cringe, which is more about the characters than what's going on.

Do goody Pete (Tom Stourton), who has been working with refugees, receives an invitation to spend his birthday with some of his old Uni mates; the venue is friend George's (Joshua McGuire) dad's pile, and they'll be joined by uber posh Archie (Graham Dickson), George's girlfriend Fig (Georgina Campbell) and Claire (Antonia Clarke) with whom Pete had a relationship. Pete has some concerns about the weekend; he feels that he's grown up and is worried that his old muckers haven't. 

When he arrives, with the promise of his girlfriend Sonia (Charly Clive) joning them the day after, he finds the house empty. Unbeknownst to Pete, the group arrive later having been waiting for him in the pub; and with them is a stranger, the awful Harry (Dustin Demri-Burns), whose constant needling of Pete recalls Shaun Pye's persistent winding up of Ricky Gervais in Extras (2005). From this point on there's a ratcheting up of unease as the group fails to gel, egged on by the horrible Harry, who everyone else but Pete seems to like. But Harry seems vaguely familiar to Pete, and whatever the latter says to his friends, the weekend becomes more and more awful.

As I've mentioned, with the exception of the opening scenes - Pete's journey to the manor house is punctuated by some potentially folk horror-esque encounters - All My Friends Hate Me is far more an exercise in unease than outright horror, even at its revelatory climax. Gaynord's interest is entirely in the way that a group of unlikeable people become more so the longer you spend with them. Harry is smart as a whip, but very much of country stock; he provides an interesting conduit between the actual poshness of Pete's friends and Pete's own reformed anti classness (which quickly dissolves when he shouts "pikey!" at a key point).

Sadly the narrative strands of the movie aren't that strong; the audience waits for a big payoff, then gets a couple of explanations of past behaviour which don't really justify the tension experienced. But for the most part it's a great ensemble piece, with at least a couple of moments requiring the curling of toes and a sharp intake of breath. Well set up but ulitmately unfulfilling in delivery, but worth seeing for Demri-Burns's subtly nasty Harry.

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