Review: ‘All My Friends Hate Me’ is cringe comedy and psychological horror at its most uncomfortable
Andrew Gaynord’s “All My Friends Hate Me” (2021) is an unsettling visualization of social anxiety. The film follows Pete as he reconnects with old college friends in celebration of his 31st birthday, only to come to the sinister conclusion that they are all plotting against him.
Mar 23, 2022
Spoiler warning: This article includes spoilers for “All My Friends Hate Me.”
Low-budget horror movies and “enlightened” comedies with a central heart-to-heart storyline share one ultra-specific trope: the group of friends who meet for a dinner or weekend getaway in a large, isolated house. Andrew Gaynord’s “All My Friends Hate Me” is a profoundly British and surprisingly fresh take on this cliche. The film manages to explore the horrors of social anxiety in uniquely uncomfortable ways.
Pete (Tom Stourton) has recently returned from working at a refugee camp — a fact he makes sure nobody forgets — and is headed to his friend George’s (Joshua McGuire) family estate to celebrate his birthday weekend. Several of Pete’s college friends, most of whom he hasn’t seen in years, will be there, including George and his equally posh wife, Fig (Georgina Campbell), unstable ex-fling Claire (Antonia Clarke) and the obnoxiously wealthy Archie (Graham Dickson).
When Pete arrives following a somewhat traumatic journey, he is alone. His easy-going girlfriend, Sonia (Charly Clive), is expected to join the festivities the following day. Upon entering the mansion, however, he is greeted with utter silence. Believing he’s the one that was late, he’s disappointed at the absence of what he had anticipated to be an enthusiastic welcome wagon, though he greets his friends kindly nonetheless when they finally arrive. Among them is Harry (Dustin Demri-Burns), a charming local that the group picked up at the pub and who Pete is convinced is trying to ruin him.
The film unfolds like a typical horror movie, steadily rising in tension over the course of its runtime. However, its dry, unexpected juxtaposition between dry humor and horror characterize it instead as a clever dark comedy. In a particularly light-hearted yet spot-on portrayal of Pete’s anxious tendencies, we see him repeatedly buttoning and unbuttoning his shirt in the mirror. The tense, ominous music that accompanies it, however, is much more fit for a later scene in which the crew is shooting birds — a moment that is instead paired with a playful, upbeat track. These heavy contrasts in tone compliment Pete’s fears, which are invalidated by friends who insist he is just “a little anxious” and out of touch with the situation; after all, they are such good friends that they can pick up right where they left off.
Though Pete’s anxieties are relatable, the film is just as much about his tendency to make them everybody else’s problem, often at their expense.
“All My Friends Hate Me” equates insecurity with narcissism, which is a particularly interesting conflation of afflictions, considering insecurity can be surmised as a lack of self-esteem, and narcissism as an excess of it. The film, though empathetic with Pete’s struggles, also pokes fun at the fact that he is so paranoid and self-absorbed that he cannot imagine a scenario in which his friends aren’t intentionally behaving this way to harass him.
In a Q&A following the March 11 screening of the film at the Angelika Film Center, lead actor Tom Stourton described an experience he shared with his character that partially inspired the film. He had been invited to a friend’s wedding after losing touch with them and drifting apart, and while there, all he could focus on was the thought that they had only invited him as a joke. Then, he realized how narcissistic this thought process was, considering he was at an event meant to be a celebration of somebody else’s relationship.
Watching “All My Friends Hate Me” is like laughing at a funeral or crying on your birthday: depressing, uncomfortable and, in some ways, cathartic. If you find yourself relating to Pete, you will love the film’s ending, even though it denies viewers the release horror movies often provide in favor of one last introspective, sardonic joke.
If, however, you side with Pete’s friends and believe he is irrational and overly sensitive, you might be disappointed by the open-endedness of the film, which leaves the idea of whether or not Pete’s friends were playing a cruel joke on him up to audience interpretation.
Either way, it is a film that rejects apathy and demands self-awareness. If you can’t identify the villain in a situation, it’s probably you.
Contact Lorena Campes at [email protected]