My Friend Dahmer is in theaters now.
By Keith Noakes
Why would a production company ever make a film about a serial killer in his teenage years, let alone one about the notorious Jeffrey Dahmer? I was surprised that this movie actually worked.
Coming of age is an oft-covered theme in films, but it’s never been done like My Friend Dahmer. Every viewer knows what the character Dahmer will gow up to be, so it’s fascinating to see a depiction of how he was in high school. All the signs of a psychopath were there.
Dahmer was part of a broken home, living with his younger brother David (Liam Koeth), his mentally unstable mother Joyce (Anne Heche), and his father Lionel (Dallas Roberts) who desperately tried to hold things together in spite of everything going on. He was a typical loner, fascinated by death and a nearby jogger (Vincent Kartheiser). Our prior knowledge of his future adds some interesting context to his actions. And despite what he is and will be, it was still easy to root for Jeffrey in a weird kind of way.
Dahmer was mostly a loner because of his limited social skills. Everything about him was awkward, from the way he talked to the way he moved. Everyone at his high school immediately dismissed him for being weird. This made it difficult for him to make friends. We see him try so hard to be liked, but he still had to fight the sinister feelings within him.
Dahmer’s inner conflict was very compelling to watch as he dealt with quite a lot while maintaining a quiet, stoic demeanour throughout. Again, the signs were there but it was too early to tell. The film also tries to hint at more insane behavior privately going on, but the director chose to keep this a mystery thus keeping us wondering whether or not he’s given into his murderous feelings until the end of the movie (although we know the real life outcome). This was probably the right choice as the vague references allowed for more character development and makes the story more engaging to watch.
The film definitely would not have worked if not for Lynch’s excellent performance as Dahmer. He managed to pull off a naturally awkward and deeply nuanced performance all while keeping a stoic exterior. We all know that he’s going to be a serial killer but Lynch makes him likable. Although Dahmer got most of the focus here, obviously, the other performances were great as well. Heche and Roberts were great as Dahmer’s parents with Heche’s Joyce wanting to be taken seriously after spending time at a mental institution and Robert’s Lionel desperately trying to reign in Joyce while keeping his family together.
Overall, this was an excellent, albeit occasionally weird but always compelling coming of age story anchored by an excellent performance.
I give My Friend Dahmer an A.