Why, Against All The Odds, I Loved All My Friends Hate Me
I bow down to the Toms and their privilege-skewering debut feature
OK, let’s be clear: All My Friends Hate Me should be my own personal kryptonite. Pour it into my eyes and ears! Watch me bend double in agony!
A horror-comedy about a posh ex-private school boy spending his birthday weekend with other posh ex-private school boys (and girls) in a massive country house, written by two men - both called Tom - who met at Eton.
And? There’s a character - let’s call her Posh, Beautiful Blonde Woman - who is oh-so fragile and maybe-unstable in the way that posh, beautiful blonde women on screen so often are. There is also a character called Fig. Fig!
Yet, yet, yet.
I’ll be damned, two-Toms (Palmer and Stourton, also the star), because not only could I not hate All My Friends Hate Me (directed by Stath Lets Flats’ Andrew Gaynord), I loved every excruciating minute of their skewering of the politics of class and privilege.
For The Toms, it turns out, are not only exceptional writers (they have written as a comedy duo called Totally Tom since school) but exceptionally aware of their place in the modern world (and how that may have, well, evolved). Not only that, they’re entirely happy to take the almighty piss out of it, and themselves. To be the ones being gaslit. Man, I like these guys.
The idea for the film – for it’s about more than just the posh pals in a country house - came from a wedding that a running-on-no-sleep Stourton attended. His hangover blossomed briefly into paranoia as he feared that not only had he been invited as one big joke, but that it was about to be revealed in the speeches. What if, he thought, your friends really did hate you? Or, at least, you thought they did?
And so we have Pete: an exceptionally tall, exceptionally polite, just-turned 31-year-old who is reunited with those old university pals: country home-inheritor George (Joshua McGuire), his nihilistic wife Fig (Georgina Campbell), cokehead Archie (Graham Dickson) and ex-flame (the aforementioned fragile or is she) Claire (Antonia Clarke). They’re pals he doesn’t see so much anymore. Not since trying to become a more rounded human being than, well, we’re not entirely sure who Pete was before. But there are suggestions of cancel-worthy behaviour in his past (if, you know, cancel culture was actually a real thing).
Pete’s now a new man! He works with refugees. He has a northern girlfriend (Charly Clive); one with an actual accent. He takes his relationship seriously. He no longer laughs at the to-the-knuckle jokes. He declines the coke on offer. He goes to bed early. And what do his old friends think of the new Pete? This is where, depending on your perspective (or Pete’s), they simply, understandably have their gears ground by him or they start darkly tormenting him.
As Pete spirals, suspecting everyone of being out to get him – but particularly Harry (Dustin Demri-Burns), the random bloke his friends pick up from the pub - Stourton plays his insecurities and fears beautifully (including a skilful and subtle shirt buttoning-up scene). Whether it’s just worrying that he’s dead boring or that Harry is going to bash his skull in with an axe, everything is played with the same pitch of heightened terror.
“Skippy! The Skipper! The captain of the party!” he pleads desperately when none of his friends remember the nickname he insists he had at University. He doesn’t just nail his insecurities, but the arrogance that collides to cripple men like Pete. But maybe that should say: men like Pete today.
For Pete would, in many other films, in many other decades, have been the traditional leading man. Handsome, rich, loved by all, forgiven by all. Did I mention he was tall? But in an age of social anxiety and privilege-rattling, what and who is Pete? All My Friends Hate Me has been called a dark Richard Curtis film. And there is something of Hugh Grant viewed in the back of a crack spoon about Pete. What if the bumbling awkwardness wasn’t endearing? What if he was wracked with self-awareness (and self-hatred) about class and privilege? And his insecurities weren’t assuaged by a merciful woman with excellent hair, but incubated and prodded, encouraged to bloom? What if those around him didn’t just hate him but were right to?
This is the true horror of the film. A film that opens with a bucket-load of horror tropes – jarring synth score, blood-red titles, weird locals, a wild dog - and then accelerates into something far more interesting. The first truly dial-up-the-dread moment comes when Fig, passing him on the stairs as he heads to bed says crisply, “Listen, Pete, you’re not doing too well. This weekend so far, you’ve been a bit crap, haven’t you”.
With the tone of Ben Wheatley and the heart-racing panic of Uncut Gems, there’s a tightrope to be walked here to balance the comedy and the horror. But it’s one that is walked superbly, right up to the film’s ending - which though it may disappoint some - is a bold call that leaves you just as unsettled as the 93 minutes that came before.
The Toms might be in a different class, but they’re shaping up to be in one all of their own. Did I mention I like these guys?
All My Friends Hate Me is in cinemas now. The excellent Two Toms are taking part in a Q&A tour until June 23rd. More details here https://www.allmyfriendshatemefilm.co.uk/
I’m Losing My Shit Over….
Did you watch the second episode last night? Did you? I gasped. I may have shouted at the telly like it could shout back at me. If it could it would have said, STOP SHOUTING. The BBC One crime drama written by James Graham (Quiz) is set in the same Nottinghamshire mining village that Graham grew up in. One still fractured by the strikes of 1984 and now dealing with the murders of two local residents. It boasts a cast of legend after legend: Lesley Manville, David Morrissey, Robert Glenister, Joanne Froggatt, Adeel Akhtar (who steals the entire thing). The first episode requires patience: the drama isn’t rushed, the characters precisely built. By episode two you’ll be hooked (and shouting at the telly).
Sherwood is on BBC One, Mondays and Tuesdays at 9pm. The first two episodes are on BBCiPlayer now.
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