My Friend Dahmer

 

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A work which reveals Ross Lynch as an extraordinarily talented actor.

 
My Friend Dahmer

Dumb and Dahmer: Ross Lynch, Alex Wolff and Tommy Nelson

 

This film written and directed by Marc Meyers is something of a companion piece to Tim Sutton’s Dark Night made in 2016. Both works could erroneously be mistaken for exploitation fare: that is because Dark Night was a response to the mass killings by James Holmes in a Colorado cinema in 2012 while this new piece, as indicated by its title, is about the notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer who took seventeen lives. Both films are concerned with the background and lead-up to murder and stop short of the killings themselves. Nevertheless, there is a crucial difference: Dark Night put its focus on the society that produced James Holmes rather than on the man himself whereas My Friend Dahmer, based on a book by Dahmer’s schoolmate John Backderf, puts the young Dahmer screen centre.

 

Meyers has done a great job here, not least in the quality of his writing, which brings all of the characters to life, and in his ability to obtain accomplished performances (the cast has no weak links). What this film offers us is a detailed view of Jeff Dahmer (Ross Lynch) in his late teens while still at school in Ohio. It reveals him as somebody who essentially doesn’t fit in. He only obtains popularity with other students when he appeals to a trio of rebellious types due to the fact that his simulation of an epileptic fit is sufficiently akin to their disruptive tendencies for them to wish to make him one of them. At home, he suffers from parents at loggerheads, a mother (Anne Heche) who has been in a mental hospital and a father (Dallas Roberts) who fails to assert himself except when seeking to stop Jeff from a bizarre interest in dissecting dead animals.

 

These various elements, together with bullying at school, illustrate a world in which Jeff Dahmer is often exploited or ignored and certainly not given any helpful support. These factors might have been offered as an explanation for Dahmer’s later behaviour.  However, while also revealing his fascination with a local doctor suggestive of an underlying and perhaps not fully recognised gay sexuality, My Friend Dahmer can be read as a film that implies that Jeff Dahmer was always the person he would become, that he was born that way. Good as the other players are, the film revolves around Ross Lynch’s superlative rendering of the title role. This is a totally internal performance in that it seems to reveal Jeff Dahmer from the inside out. In seeking to give us this, the film may have a limited appeal and, by largely eschewing plot developments, the film is lacking in any strong forward momentum. Nevertheless as an in-depth serious portrait of a deeply troubled individual My Friend Dahmer is wholly successful, while what Ross Lynch achieves here will surely rank amongst the best acting to be seen in 2018.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Ross Lynch, Anne Heche, Dallas Roberts, Alex Wolff, Tommy Nelson, Vincent Kartheiser, Harrison Holzer, Miles Robbins, Liam Koeth, Sydney Meyer.

 

Dir Marc Meyers, Pro Jody Girgenti, Marc Meyers, Adam Goldworm, Michael Merlob and Milan Chakraborty, Screenplay Marc Meyers, based on the book by Derf Backderf, Ph Daniel Katz, Pro Des Jennifer Klide, Ed Jamie Kirkpatrick, Music Andrew Hollander, Costumes Carla Shivener.

 

Ibid Filmworks/Aperture Entertainment/Novofam Productions/Strange Cavern/Attic Light Films/Section Perspective-Altitude Film Entertainment.
103 mins. USA. 2017. Rel: 1 June 2018.  Cert. 15.