All My Friends Hate Me, currently streaming on Hulu, is a British dark comedy-drama directed by Andrew Gaynord. Tom Stourton, who is also a co-writer, stars as Pete, a young man preparing to meet up with old college friends for his 31st birthday. His journey to the countryside, where his old friend George has a massive estate, is fraught with unease. He approaches a dog on a chain and an apparently abandoned car, only to be chased by a homeless man. An elderly local whom he approaches for directions mocks him. When he arrives at the house, it is deserted. When his friends finally arrive, one even suggests that Pete’s invitation had been a joke. So, early on, Pete’s position is uncertain and he is wondering if his old friends really want him there at all.
All My Friends Hate Me is a fascinating study of group dynamics, insecurity, and the lingering British class system. It’s one of the most interesting films I’ve seen recently, and often uncomfortable to watch. The atmosphere borders on the horror genre, which is no accident, even though most (though not all) of the violence is verbal and psychological.
Pete’s history with these people is a little unclear, especially as his and their recollections often diverge. He has a romantic history with Claire (Antonia Clarke), something his fiance Sonia (Charly Clive) knows about. To complicate things, Sonia isn’t due to arrive at the house until a day later. The tension between Pete and Claire is exacerbated by the possibility that Claire is unstable and allegedly tried to kill herself after breaking up with Pete. Or is this just something the others are telling Pete to make him feel guilty?
Much of the tension is between Pete and Harry (Dustin Demri-Burns), who is supposedly an outsider that Pete’s ex-college friends found in a bar. However, Harry, who is loud and borderline aggressive, seems to have an unexplained hostility towards Pete. Pete also feels like he vaguely recognizes Harry. The others, meanwhile, seem oblivious to Harry’s increasingly unhinged antics.
It’s hard to readily identify heroes and villains in this film. Although Pete may be the victim, it’s also clear that he hasn’t made any effort to stay in touch over the last decade. Furthermore, his constant references to his volunteer work sound glib and self-important.
One interpretation of All My Friends Hate Me is that the entire group are privileged, atavistic characters from a bygone era. The museum-like mansion full of antique portraits is one clue. Another is a traditional pheasant hunt that the others insist Pete take part in, despite his obvious discomfort around guns and hunting.
It would be hard to reveal spoilers, as nothing very definitive happens. The audience is challenged to interpret the events, and Pete’s perceptions, in their own way. This would be an interesting film to watch a second time, though I’m not sure that even repeated viewings would net any definite conclusions.
If you were to analyze the film scene by scene, it wouldn’t be hard to poke some holes in it, especially if you want to stick with the interpretation that Pete is simply being overly sensitive or even paranoid. For example, on their way from the house to a pub, the group drives away, leaving Pete to walk. At best, his friends have a sense of humor that borders on the sadistic.
All My Friends Hate Me, with its emphasis on dialog and emotional outbursts, is the kind of film that could be a stage play, which isn’t usually a complimentary thing to say about a film. Fortunately, there are enough changes of scenery to prevent the claustrophobic feeling that filmed plays often suffer from.
However you interpret it, I think the main subject of All My Friends Hate Me transcends its class-related issues and effectively evokes the sense of social unease that is so common. While most of these characters may seem they are out of a period piece, anxiety about others’ opinions of you is at least as prevalent in the social media age. If there’s a takeaway, it may be that you can never really know how others feel about you or the motives for their actions.