All My Friends Hate Me is a film about a university reunion weekend and should you have an upcoming university reunion weekend, I’d duck out if I were you. No good will come of it. This is social anxiety as horror (almost) and you won’t just cringe for the full 90 minutes, you will violently cringe. It may take you days to uncringe. It’s a clever film, and surprising, and compelling. Yet it is also an endurance test. You won’t regret seeing it, but you will be so glad when it’s over.
This is written by Tom Palmer and Tom Stourton who first met at Eton, which is not an irrelevant fact as this is essentially and darkly about class. Stourton, who is also an actor, stars as Pete, and this is told from the point of view of Pete who, at the outset, is the relatable one.
Pete, who has been working abroad in refugee camps, has been invited to celebrate his 31st birthday with George (Joshua McGuire) at the country mansion owned by George’s father. George has a wife, Fig (Georgina Campbell) and they will also be joined by Archie (Graham Dickson), a terrifically posh coke fiend, and Claire (Antonia Clarke), Pete’s former girlfriend who appears fragile. Pete has a new girlfriend, Sonia (Charly Clive), who will be joining the party the following day. Sonia is not posh. She is from up north and isn’t convinced about the weekend. But Pete reassures her: ‘They’re not just stereotypical toffs, really.’
Directed by Andrew Gaynord, the film is unsettling and off-kilter from the start. Pete is even rattled by his drive up to the manor, thanks to a run-in with a bleating tied-up dog, a homeless person living in a car, and a bizarre interaction when he asks for directions.
Finally he arrives at his destination, but his ‘woo-hoo, let’s get this party started’ vibe is greeted by silence. There is no one there. The mansion is cold and empty. Where is everybody? Eventually, the others return from the pub saying they’d left a note – did they? – while Pete pretends he’s only just arrived, even though it’s been hours. (Cringe.) They’ve returned with a ‘random’ in tow. That is, someone they picked up in the pub. ‘He’s a real local,’ says Fig. The ‘random’ is Harry (played with terrific chummy malice by Dustin Demri-Burns), who seems to have it in for Pete. (It turns out that when the others were at university they always bought a ‘random’ back from the pub to toy with. Pete says he doesn’t remember but they tell him: ‘You loved it.’)
Initially, everything is just slightly not right. A pause goes on for a beat too long before someone says: ‘Only joking!’ But things escalate, provoked by Harry’s constant needling. Teasing and pranks go too far. Is it all directed at Pete? Do all his friends hate him? Or is he being paranoid? Is he being gaslit? Are we?
We feel for Pete. Why is everyone being so mean to him? He accuses the others of not having ‘self-awareness’ – particularly when Archie refers to a ‘pez’ (peasant) interfering with a rich person’s good time. But then we begin to wonder: is Pete the one who lacks self-awareness? Have his friends gathered to tell Pete the truth about himself? Is Claire fragile because of him? Why does he think he’s seen Harry somewhere before?
It all builds to a brutal reveal, with excellent performances all round and admirable character work. (Poor Archie.) I can’t say what the film is saying. Once a jerk always a jerk? But what I can say is that it is a vortex of tension and anxiety. And if you come away from it with one thing, make it this: if you must attend your university reunion, make sure you know where all the exits are. Draw a map.