An invitation to a big country home, from your old university friends to celebrate your birthday, sounds wonderful. What could go wrong? From the beginning when Pete (Tom Stourton) is driving to his party things start going askew. Getting lost and having to ask for directions from a terse-lipped local are not very unexpected problems that Pete encounters on his way, but he is unsettled by a roadside attack when he takes a short ‘comfort’ break.
Reviewed by Nigel Watson
Once Pete reaches his destination the theme of being lost and attacked continues at a steady pace. As well as his university friends, whom he has not seen for several years, a random person named Harry (Dustin Demri-Burns), they picked up at the local pub, joins them. Harry soon upsets Pete and undermines him at every turn.
After a disturbing night, on Pete’s actual birthday his friends organise a few special surprises for him, although even these only make him feel even more paranoid and make him wonder if they are all plotting against him.
Just in small moments when Pete spends an inordinate amount of time in front of the mirror deciding whether to fully button up or unbutton his top before he leaves his room, indicates his fears about how casual or restrained he should look to the others.
In the claustrophobic environment of the country house and the alien landscape, this could easily have been an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery or a horror film, instead it a well-paced psychological thriller with touches of dark comedy. In some moments Tom Stourton as Pete brilliantly channels the nervous anxiety of Nicholas Lynhurst’s Rodney character in the Only Fools and Horses sitcom. He is disorientated by the social setting and the actions of his friends. Harry mocks him by saying he loves to talk about his work with refugees, takes no interest in his friends’ lives and never listens.
Harry, who is impressively creepy as the scruffy loud-mouthed stranger who seems to know a lot about Pete, and easily upsets him by his exuberant and strange behaviour. Pete might well be guilty of being self-centred and over-compensating by being passionate about his work with refugees – indeed he might well have old secrets about his past – but his so-called friends are incredibly uncaring and laugh at his inability to cope with Harry.
The wonderful ensemble cast, and the series of either bad fortune or an intricate plot against Pete for some unspecified misdemeanour, provides a constant background of tension and unease. Even after the credits roll, director Andrew Gaynord’s film keeps you guessing.
All My Friends Hate Me is screening at Plymouth Arts Cinema from Friday 22 – Thursday 28 July.