Cringe comedy hurtles toward psychological horror in “All My Friends Hate Me,” Andrew Gaynord’s delicious, fearless dive into age-related angst and chronic insecurity.
Years have passed since Pete (Tom Stourton) has seen his old friends from college, four of whom are throwing him a 31st birthday party at an ancestral home in the British countryside. After a couple of unnervingly odd encounters en route, Pete, already anxious and out of sorts, arrives to find the house empty. His mood is not improved when, hours later, his friends return from the pub with a weird stranger named Harry (Dustin Demri-Burns), who seems rather too familiar with Pete’s past and personality.
Dancing on the line between funny and menacing, the ingenious script (by Stourton and Tom Palmer) is a tonal tease, a limbo where every joke has a threatening edge and every “Just kidding!” only increases Pete’s unease. No one is interested in his volunteer work with refugee children; instead, they seem to be criticizing him at every turn, especially the unsettling Harry, whose mysterious notebook becomes a focus for Pete’s growing anger and paranoia.
Cleverly playing with our sympathies, Gaynord, in his feature debut, stirs upper-class twittery and working-class pragmatism into scenes prickling with ambiguity. Was it really a prearranged prank when Harry pursued Pete with an ax? And was Pete’s nightmarish birthday roast a ruse to force him to confess a long-ago sin?
Tightly paced and slickly composed, “All My Friends Hate Me” loses its nerve a trace in the final moments. Yet its commitment to unearthing the masochism that lurks at the heart of any reunion is unwavering.
All My Friends Hate Me
Rated R for liberal drug use and conservative nudity. Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes. In theaters.