My Friend Dahmer
dir-scr Marc Meyers
prd Marc Meyers, Jody Girgenti, Adam Goldworm, Milan Chakraborty, Michael Merlob
with Ross Lynch, Anne Heche, Dallas Roberts, Alex Wolff, Tommy Nelson, Harrison Holzer, Vincent Kartheiser, Liam Koeth, Cameron McKendry, Miles Robbins, Sydney Meyer, Adam Kroloff
release US 3.Nov.17, UK 1.Jun.18
17/US 1h47
My Friend Dahmer
Class clowns: Lynch and Wolff

heche roberts kartheiser
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
My Friend Dahmer An original approach makes this film both riveting and important as it traces the true story of Jeffrey Dahmer before he was a serial killer. As written and directed by Marc Meyers, and as played by a remarkably committed cast, this almost looks like a standard teen comedy. But the underlying tension and the complexity of the characters make it goosebump-inducing.

In 1977 Ohio, Jeff Dahmer (Lynch) starts his senior year in high school. An oddball loner, he prefers to experiment with roadkill in his shed rather than make friends or hang out with his distracted parents (Heche and Roberts). Frustrated by loneliness, he fakes a seizure at school, attracting the attention of three chuckleheads (Wolff, Nelson and Holzer) who think he's hilarious and launch a "Dahmer Society" to shake the system. They know Jeff is strange, but they can't see his his growing interest in death or his consuming crush on a local doctor (Kartheiser).

To tell this seriously unsettling story, Meyers makes the film look like a 1970s high school drama, complete with bullies, oblivious teachers and surly outcast students. This places Dahmer in a recognisable "tribe", so most audience members will immediately see him as someone they once knew. Or someone they once were. Without ever trying to identify the direct causes of Dahmer's murderous inclinations, the script (based on the book written by John Backderf, the character played by Wolff) drops clues everywhere.

This approach also lets Lynch give a detailed performance revealing Dahmer's intelligence and wit along with his unhealthy interests. He's aware that his new popularity doesn't mean that anyone likes him, but it's useful for distracting people from his real obsessions. And it's nice to have friends while his frazzled father and mentally ill mother split up. Roberts and Heche are excellent as parents consumed with their own problems, while Wolff, Nelson and Holzer further ground the movie with offhanded, relaxed realism.

While the film is infused with pitch-black undercurrents, including some deeply macabre moments, Meyers skilfully avoids turning it either portentous or maudlin. He lets the events speak for themselves, a cautionary tale about how society missed what was going on with this goofy but razor sharp teen. The film tells its story with clear-eyed authenticity, then cuts away with the chilling knowledge of what happened next. And of course, Dahmer's story only turned much, much worse a decade later, as officials failed to notice his horrific secret.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 14.Mar.18

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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall