Coming to a cinema near you is My Friend Dahmer starring Ross Lynch, Alex Wolff, and Anne Heche which details the formative years of the infamous Jeffrey Dahmer (playing by wholesome Disney Channel star Ross Lynch).
What makes a monster, is it nature or nurture? Are humans inherently good or is there a darkness within us that we have to fight? This is what Marc Meyer the director of My Friend Dahmer is asking the audience during the course of this film. If you know the story, you will walk into this film already knowing how you feel about this individual but if you’re like me, someone who only knows the name Dahmer from pop culture references you may be able to see this journey in a whole new light. Jeffrey Dahmer when we are first introduced to him is an individual that is closed off from all his peers he’s insular and seems content to be left to his own “unique” quirks. Most of these include finding dead animals on the road and slowly dissolving them in acid as he is fascinated by their interior parts. To try and stave off his mother and father’s continuous issues with him having no friends he is part of the school marching band. That’s not enough though as his father one day in a fit of anger destroys Jeffrey’s lab and explains to him that he needs friends and to come out of his shell.
When Jeffrey finally makes something of a gesture to be noticed he makes friends with the resident slackers of his school spearheaded by John “Derf” Backderf (Alex Wolff). They see him as a kind of comic genius/jester that they can utilise to show off their particular brand of comedy so that they can make a mark in their final year of school. It all seems like harmless fun, but as Jeffrey’s family are spiralling out of control due to the mental instability of his mother (Anne Heche) and his own darker thoughts being urged on by issues of sexual identity and so much more, Jeffrey is on a twisted path.
Now, this is based on a true story so audiences will already know there isn’t a happy ending to this fairy tale about a lost little boy in the woods but it is the journey and the characters in My Friend Dahmer that make this a story you want to watch from start to finish. Ross Lynch is fantastic as young Dahmer a young man unclear of what he is on so many different levels. He stumbles through every scene hoping for a genuine human connection, but there is always that creeping sense on the back of your neck as he edges closer that maybe he’ll hurt someone. There are several scenes with intense dread a particular highlight is towards the end of the film with a scene between Derf and Dahmer it will leave you breathless.
Meyer directs this film with a subtle hand never showing too much as this could easily be an over the top gore fest in the wrong hands. We see the implications of brutality and the ramifications it is having on the fragile psyche of Dahmer as he is trying to deal with the destructive nature of his family environment and the less than exemplary treatment of him by his “friends”. Daniel Katz’ cinematography compliments Meyers directorial style with his close up shots of Jeffrey stroking bones and watching his supposed victims from afar like a kind of admirer.
My Friend Dahmer a heartbreaking reminder of the frailty of the human condition and Meyers with his cast has done a great job at showing that Jeffrey Dahmer is a three-dimensional individual with feelings and at a point in his life with a possible future. Does this wipe away the horrific acts he performed? Not at all but it’s fascinating food for thought.