This enjoyably mean-spirited black comedy set in a grand country house will have you wondering who your real friends are – and what they really think of you.
It’s the question Pete (Tom Stourton, who co-wrote the script) starts asking himself a few hours into the 31st birthday bash four old university mates are throwing for him in that remote pile. He seems like a good person, albeit one with an irritating habit of dropping his recent work at a refugee camp into every conversation. At uni, as he sheepishly admits to his girlfriend, he went by ‘Skipper’. ‘Because I was the captain of the party,’ he says. Yup, he’s that guy.
First-time director Andrew Gaynord puts us in Pete’s shoes as he turns up and tries to refamiliarise himself with the group dynamics of his four up-for-it mates. They’re overtly friendly but somehow slightly off with him. Have the intervening years just distanced them all or is there something more sinister afoot? And why is the pisshead local, Harry (Dustin Demri-Burns), they’ve brought back from the pub taking notes every time he says anything?
The friends are a thinly sketched bunch: Archie (Graham Dickson) is an off-the-rails Gap Yah type who plies everyone with drugs; there’s haughty posh girl Fig (Georgina Campbell), whose husband, George (About Time’s Joshua McGuire), own the place; and the fragile Claire (Antonia Clarke) who still holds a candle for Pete, her ex. Her mental health struggles add a key element of confused self-reproach to further cloud Pete’s thinking. The drinking games don’t help, either.
The effect is like being in a pressure cooker of social awkwardness
But that lack of finer detail, it turns out, is the point. Pete doesn’t really listen to anyone and it’s his failure to ask questions of the group or interpret social cues that leaves him so vulnerable to the paranoia that starts to envelop him. There’s a bit of London snobbery at play here, too, including one dismissive encounter with a local farmer that comes back to bite him.
The effect is like being in a pressure cooker of social awkwardness, building to a twist ending that’s borderline painful to witness. See it and you’ll want to give that next college reunion a hard pass.
In UK cinemas Jun 10.