A gory portrait of a serial killer this is not. More, a coming-of-age story for a monster in the making. That’s not to say that the character of Jeffrey Dahmer (Lynch) isn’t shown carrying out some fairly despicable acts as a teenager, but My Friend Dahmer focuses more on the human side of him that slowly seems to be disappearing from view.
All the classic tropes of teen movies are here: struggling to fit in at school, difficulties at home, and a lack of confidence. But simmering away in the background is an uncontrollable rage coupled with disturbing obsessions. When some of his classmates begin to show an interest in the ‘funny’ things he does for attention, it feels like a lifeline has been thrown towards him. As soon as their attention begins to wane, however, the monster emerges.
Ross Lynch is outstanding in the lead role, despite his background being predominantly in Disney Channel movies. There’s a deft balance of humour, sadness and malice that forces you to flip from sympathetic to fear in just a few short moments. It’s hard not to feel sympathy towards this teenager as he struggles with a volatile mother with mental health issues, as well as trying to find his place amongst his peers. However, at times it feels like you are pushed just a little too far towards this, with his upbringing and surroundings seemingly getting a lot of the blame for his actions. Writer-director Marc Meyers certainly brings the nature versus nurture argument to the forefront of Dahmer’s story.
The coming-of-age style lulls you into a false sense of security as you slowly wind your way towards Dahmer’s transformation into a monster, leaving you with a complex and absorbing portrait of a teenager just about to take the leap into infamy.
CAST: Ross Lynch, Alex Wolff, Anne Heche
DIRECTOR: Marc Meyers
WRITERS: Marc Meyers, Derf Backderf (based on the book My Friend Dahmer by)
SYNOPSIS: A young Jeffrey Dahmer struggles to belong in high school.