All My Friends Hate Me, Andrew Gaynord, Antonia Clarke, Charly Clive, Christopher Fairbank, comedy, drama, Dustin Demri-Burns, England, film festivals, Graham Dickson, Joshua McGuire, movies, reviews, Tom Stourton, Tribeca Film Festival
April 8, 2022
by Carla Hay
Directed by Andrew Gaynord
Culture Representation: Taking place in Devon, England, the comedy/drama “All My Friends Hate Me” features a nearly all-white cast of characters (with one black person) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: For his 32nd birthday, a man reunites with some of his former college friends at a remote estate in the country, and he is plagued with a nagging suspicion that they are conspiring to make him miserable.
Culture Audience: “All My Friends Hate Me” will appeal primarily to people interested in dark comedies/drama that are intended to keep viewers on edge and feeling uncomfortable.
Deliberately unnerving, “All My Friends Hate Me” taps into people’s insecurities and paranoia that friends can become enemies. Just like the movie’s protagonist, this dark comedy/drama is both fascinating and annoying. The story goes off the rails into incoherence more than a few times, but viewers might remain interested out of curiosity to see how the movie ends.
Directed by Andrew Gaynord, “All My Friends Hate Me” was filmed on location in Devon, England. The movie had its world premiere at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. There’s a very British sensibility to this movie that benefits the story, since British comedy is often about cutting down people who think too highly of themselves.
“All My Friends Hate Me” is told from the perspective of a neurotic man named Pete (played by Tom Stourton), who has a very tension-filled reunion with some of his former college friends for his 32nd birthday. Stourton and Tom Palmer co-wrote the screenplay for “All My Friends Hate Me.” The reunion takes place over a few days, mostly at a place called Cleve Hill Manor, which is in a remote part of the country. The real-life mansion location is actually called Sidbury Manor.
Pete and his university friends come from very privileged backgrounds. For an unnamed period of time, Pete has been working in a refugee camp in an unnamed country. Throughout the movie Pete and his friends show varying levels of elitism, as well as attempts to identify with or interact with less privileged people.
Within these social constructs, Pete feels his own level of discomfort that his friends secretly look down on him because he doesn’t have a high income and spends a lot of time with underprivileged people. However, in the beginning of the movie, Pete is in good spirits, as he travels by himself in his car to the mansion, where his pals have gathered to celebrate his birthday. Pete hasn’t seen these friends in years, but he expects that they will pick up right where they left off, with a lot of good will and positive camaraderie. Pete is about to find out that this assumption is very wrong.
The people who are in this party and who stay overnight at the mansion are:
- George (played by Joshua McGuire), whose father owns the mansion, but George is the one in the family who spends the most time there, and he oversees the manor’s upkeep. It was George’s idea to throw this birthday party for Pete at the mansion. It’s unclear if George has a profession, but it’s implied that he’s living off of his family’s wealth.
- Fig (played by Georgina Campbell), George’s wife, who is as status-conscious and self-assured as George is. Fig and George began dating each other when they were in college, and they appear to be happily married.
- Archie (played by Graham Dickson), a goofy 31-year-old bachelor who is an aspiring entrepreneur. Archie can be socially awkward and has a habit of sometimes saying and doing inappropriate things.
- Claire (played by Antonia Clarke), an introverted painter artist, who had a fling with Pete when they were in college. Claire was reportedly heartbroken when their would-be romance ended, but she’s decided to stay on friendly terms with Pete.
- Harry (played by Dustin Demri-Burns), a scruffy and crude 40-year-old country local whom George met at a pub shortly before Pete arrived. George impulsively invited Harry to be a guest at the party after seeing Harry challenging local farmers to rap battles in the pub.
- Sonia (played by Charly Clive), Pete’s girlfriend, who arrives separately and much later than everyone else at the party. It’s briefly mentioned that Sonia didn’t travel with Pete because of her job commitments.
On his way to the manor, Pete gets lost and asks an elderly man on the road for directions. The man isn’t very friendly and doesn’t seem impressed when Pete says that he’s going to the mansion for his birthday party. Pete is starting to feel anxious because he’s running late.
When Pete arrives at the mansion, he is warmly greeted by friends. When he tells his friends about the strange and unfriendly old man he encountered on the road, Pete is embarrassed to see that the man is standing behind him. His name is Norman (played by Christopher Fairbank), and he’s one of the mansion’s servants. Norman isn’t in the movie much, but his employee role is mostly being a butler.
Not long after Pete arrives for this party, Archie tells Pete that George’s birthday party invitation was a joke. Pete believes Archie, until Archie laughs and confesses that the real joke is that Archie was telling a lie about the party invitation being a prank. It’s the start of Pete feeling unnerved by not knowing what might be sarcastic jokes from the people at this gathering, or what might be genuine attempts to humiliate him.
When Pete and Claire see each other, they catch up on what’s been going on in each other’s lives. In a self-deprecating manner, Claire says that she’s just a “stupid posh girl painting portraits of other posh people.” Pete seems very pleased with himself that he’s a do-gooder for charity in his refugee work, but no one else in this group really wants to hear the details of what Pete does in his job.
Claire isn’t Pete’s only past romantic entanglement from his university days. In a private conversation between Pete and Fig, he reminds Fig that they had had a kissing makeout session once when they were college students. Fig says that she doesn’t remember it. This scene is one of many instances in the movie where viewers are supposed to wonder if Pete’s perspective and memories are entirely reliable.
In a separate private conversation between Pete and George, Pete tells George that he plans to propose marriage to Sonia during an upcoming trip to Paris. George seems happy for Pete, but he warns Pete not to tell Claire, because Claire is “still a bit in love with you.” Pete and Sonia met and started dating each other long after his fling with Claire ended. However, during the course of the movie, Pete worries about if or when he should tell Sonia about his past fling with Claire.
Meanwhile, Pete becomes more and more annoyed that Harry has been invited to this party, as Pete begins to suspect that Harry is up to no good and is targeting Pete in particular. The tension between Pete and Harry begins when Pete finds out that he and Harry have adjoining rooms, and Harry has a tendency to invade Pete’s personal space. For example, when Pete is taking a bath, Harry has no qualms about walking into the bathroom, taking off all of his clothes, and walking around naked in front of Pete.
During a group dinner, Harry makes Pete even more uncomfortable with his weird and offbeat jokes. Archie babbles on about an app he’s developing to connect wealthy travelers who want to do things such as jet skiing while chasing whales. When Pete comments that that the app sounds super-elitist, Archie then states what he thinks is the purpose of the app being exclusive to wealthy people: “At least you’re not having your holiday ruined by some random peaz [short for peasant].”
Pete somewhat lectures Archie to be “more aware” of who’s in the room when Archie talks like a classist snob. Without saying Harry’s name out loud, Pete is implying that Harry is presumably working-class and might be offended by Archie’s derogatory attitude about people who aren’t rich and privileged. However, Pete’s assumption is somewhat classist in and of itself.
Even though Harry doesn’t dress in designer clothes, and he was hanging out at a local pub with working-class people, that doesn’t automatically mean anyone should assume what his status is, when it comes to his finances or social class. In fact, Harry reveals very little about himself during his time spent with these strangers. He sticks to being a jokester. And that makes Pete even more anxious, because he thinks Harry is making Pete the butt of Harry’s jokes.
Things start to get weirder for Pete when he notices that Harry has been staring at Pete and writing in a notebook, as if Harry is observing Pete and spying on him. And there’s an incident where Harry takes some of Pete’s aspirin without Pete’s permission. Pete confides in Archie that he thinks Harry is “fucking with me, or he doesn’t like me.” Archie thinks Pete is being too paranoid. Pete’s paranoia isn’t helped when he later snorts some cocaine in a party scene.
Not all of the movie’s scenes take place in the mansion. There’s an unevenly written scene where the men go out in the woods for a hunting excursion. There’s also a scene that takes place in a pub that was rented out for part of Pete’s birthday celebration.
During the course of the movie, Pete begins to see signs that his life might be in danger. He’s certain that he saw a bloody body in a car that’s parked outside the manor. And there comes a point in the story where Pete is genuinely convinced that Harry is going to kill him.
“All My Friends Hate Me” plays guessing games with viewers over what is real and what might be Pete’s hallucinations. After a while, the movie turns into an expected showdown/confrontation between Pete and Harry. And that comes as a disservice to the movie’s other characters, who seem hollow and underdeveloped in comparison. The cast members in those supporting roles are therefore forced to be limited in their acting range. Demri-Burns gives a compelling performance as the mysterious Harry, but even that character has its limitations.
Stourton carries the movie quite well in the central role of Pete, who is both sympathetic and irritating. Viewers will feel empathy for Pete when he starts to believe that he’s an outsider at his own birthday party/reunion with his friends. But at some point, Pete (who tells people he’s in therapy) is frustratingly immature in how he handles whatever problems he seems to be having. Pete starts to feel some disdain toward his friends because he thinks that they are shallow and haven’t emotionally matured since their university days.
However, Pete has a lot of flaws too, which become more apparent as the story goes on in frequently repetitive ways. There are only so many times that viewers need to see varying degrees of “Pete versus Harry” before it starts to drag down the story. “All My Friends Hate Me” does have a knockout scene in the last third of the film, where secrets are revealed. But one of the characters is let off the hook too easily in the movie’s final scene, which might turn off some viewers from this film entirely.
Although “All My Friends Hate Me” has been described as a “horror film,” it’s best to know going into this movie that it’s more of a psychological drama with a lot of comedic satire. “All My Friends Hate Me” will make viewers feel unsettled or tense, but it’s definitely not as terrifying as a horror movie is supposed to be. There’s nothing incompetent about this movie’s filmmaking or acting, but “All My Friends Hate” is clearly not meant to have mass appeal. The movie is at its best when it takes an incisive look at social anxieties and the pressure that people put on themselves to impress others.
Super LTD released “All My Friends Hate Me” in select U.S. cinemas on March 11, 2022. The movie was released on digital and VOD on March 25, 2022.