Marc Meyer’s MY FRIEND DAHMER tells the tale of a high school misfit called Jeffrey DAHMER (Ross Lynch). On the surface, the film looks like the popular hit NAPOLEON DYNAMITE with the leads in the two films looking a bit similar.
The similarity stops there. This film is based on a true story and does not take the easy route of feel good underdog film that NAPOLEON DYNAMITE took. Credit is due to Marc Meyers for daring to make a totally different film, different in outlook, feel and character treatment. The film is the haunting, sad, funny, true story of Jeffrey Dahmer in high school, based on Derf Backderf’s critically acclaimed 2012 graphic novel of the same name and Meyers’s own 2014 Black List script.
Dahmer’s odd behaviour stems from his dysfunctional family. His mentally unstable mother (Anne Heche) pops pills and drives her and well-intentioned husband (Dallas Roberts) and Dahmer crazy. The father has a lonely job as a chemist and wants his son Dahmer not to follow the same route but to have friends for friends lead to connections in life. With a family life in ruins, he collects roadkill and fixates on a neighbourhood jogger (Vincent Kartheiser). As Dahmer begins to act out at school, and his goofball antics win over a group of band-nerds who form The Dahmer Fan Club, headed by Derf Backderf (Alex Wolff). But this camaraderie cannot mask his growing depravity. Approaching graduation, Jeff spirals further out of control, inching ever closer to madness.
For a teen film, the film contains scenes of teens drinking hard alcohol, drug use and excessive use of foul language. This makes it an uneasy watch, despite its authenticity.
Meyers’ film captures the camaraderie of Dahmer’s group of friends outcast from society – their disrespect for authority, their need for attention, need to be different and their pure restlessness. The small town mentality does not help the kids either, not providing them a way out of their humdrum living or for a better future.
The film finally reveals the true nature of Dahmer.. Jeffrey Dahmer murdered 17 men and boys in the Midwest United States between 1978 and 1991 before being captured and incarcerated. He would become one of America’s most infamous serial killers. This is therefore, the story before that story.
Dahmer’s sexual orientation is hinted in the one well executed and the film’s most intriguing scene in which he visits the school doctor after hearing rumours that the doctor touches the boys’ penises after making them cough. The visit proves futile as the doctor never touches Dahmer, the visit becoming more awkward after him being told he is in perfect earth. Dahmer masturbates in his room after.
The film compares with another film that tells the before story of a serial killer WE NEED TO TALK ABLUT KEVIN. Both films hint at the reason for the subjects decent into a serial killer, while attributing the main cause to be mental instability.
MY FRIEND DAHMER is a portrait of a teenage serial killer and it is a film to be seen at at ones own risk!