Andrew Gaynord, best known for directing episodes of the TV comedy Stath Lets Flats, delivers his feature debut, written by the acting duo of Tom Palmer and Tom Stourton. All My Friends Hate Me is a comic horror film about the town versus gown tensions that come to a head when a university group enjoys a birthday reunion at their friend’s manor house.
Living in the UK, it’s tempting to wonder if class-obsession will ever cease to be one of the great national pastimes. Whether the shibboleths and carefully-considered boundaries of status between the posh and the non-posh will ever fade from view and put Country Life magazine out of business. But should that day ever come, it will also steal bait from the traps of a film like All My Friends Hate Me, which takes aim at the self-flagellation of super-privileged liberals with admirable energy.
Pete (Tom Stourton) is about to turn 30 and his old mates from Youni have invited him to the family estate of George (Joshua McGuire) for an old-fashioned sesh slash shooting weekend where they can reminisce about days gone by. But all is not so well with Pete. The tagging-along of a mysterious local, Harry (Dustin Demri-Burns), sends his anxiety skyrocketing and he begins to wonder how far his friends still care for him. There are aspects of who he was in his younger days that he would like to forget and reliving his University lifestyle brings with it a painful blend of paranoia and self-loathing.
There’s more than a hint of Ben Wheatley’s early horror films in this tale of immature posh folk running riot in the countryside, fuelled by booze and buckshot. But the film’s horror elements never come to the fore for long, only really providing a background tone of menace that blisters beneath the comedy tonic note of awkward misunderstandings. At its best, All My Friends Hate Me enjoys the caricature of the British countryside unselfconsciously, especially in the form of “horrible toff” Archie, played with an enjoyable directness by Graham Dickson. But nothing ever really catches fire in this slightly stale tale of middle-class guilt.
In a way, All My Friends Hate Me neatly captures the present mood of political and social uncertainty it sets out to skewer. It seems reluctant to get too weighed down with the politics of the countryside in the way of Jez Butterworth’s play Jerusalem, nor is it willing to revel in the unsympathetic idiocy of its let-loose marauders in the way of farmland-classic Withnail and I. What we’re left with is a sort of Blairite middle-ground where punches are pulled and no one really comes in for too much flack. Where’s the fun in that?
Tom Duggins | @duggins_tom