Director – Andrew Gaynord – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 93m
A thirtysomething charity worker’s birthday weekend at the country house of rich friends from his student days turns into a nightmare – out in cinemas on Friday, June 10th
Pete (Tom Stourton, who co-wrote this with Tom Palmer, with both of them producers here) heads off to the house of rich friends in Devon he hasn’t seen since university days for a weekend celebrating his 31st birthday. He doesn’t know the area well and gets lost en route. He’s a bit shocked to find a dog tied up in a field and far more shocked when he disturbs a man sleeping in a parked car who goes berserk and pursues him like a madman, causing the panicking Pete to rapidly flee in his car.
He parks by a gate and a local comes over. “Do you know the way to the manor?”, he asks. “Yes,” comes the reply. “Could you tell it me then,” he asks again. “Yes, I can,” comes the reply. Eventually, he gets the address out of the man. He later relays this story to his friends at the manor, unaware that the man, Norman (Christopher Fairbank), the local who looks after the grounds, has just come in the door behind him.
Before that, Pete arrives at the place only to find it completely deserted as if no-one is expecting him, an unsettling experience which very much sets the tone for what is to come. Such as his friends arriving late at night and one of them asking him, “what are you doing here? Oh, that invite was a joke. It got sent you by accident. You weren’t supposed to come… Nah, I’m messing with you.”
His friends comprise among others George (Joshua Maguire) whose father owns the place and George’s wife Fig (Georgina Campbell), another university friend; Archie (Graham Dickson) who constantly imbibes alcohol and drugs and thinks nothing of messing around with unloaded shotguns but doesn’t always check that they are unloaded. He gets on best with Claire (Antonia Clarke) who these days is an artist who sells her work via a website and with whom he had a romance in uni days. And he definitely doesn’t like Harry (Dustin Demri-Burns), the local wag his friends have picked up in the pub and invited along to the party.
Pete is completely out of his depth. He’s passionate about his experience of working with refugees, but whenever he brings this up, none of his old friends are remotely interested and quickly change the subject. The plan is for his girlfriend Sonia (Charly Clive) to join him at the house, but he keeps failing to reach her on the phone. When he confides in George that he’s planning to propose to Sonia, George warns him not to tell Claire because she still has feelings for him, indeed tried to kill herself over his leaving her.
He takes all this at face value, which would mean they’re out to get him, yet his friends see it more in the realm of practical jokes, generally having a laugh and everyone enjoying themselves. These party animals and the men in particular don’t get why Pete wouldn’t find their jests amusing. And Harry takes things to a whole other level: he shares Pete’s bedroom, sleeps on the couch with his eyes wide open and snores loudly.
You wonder exactly what Stourton and Palmer were thinking of when they wrote this script. To their credit, at least the characters are less stereotyped than the group of friends who gather in the country for Christmas in Silent Night (Camille Griffin, 2021) and the cast is solid enough. Alas, there’s nothing here to take you beyond the idea of Pete being psychologically tormented, so you’re effectively being required to identify with a victim for 93 minutes who never does anything to change that dynamic. I can’t remember the last film I actively disliked quite as much.
All My Friends Hate Me is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, June 10th.