Now why would they ever make a film about a serial killer in his teenage years, let alone a film about a young Jeffrey Dahmer? Some may be surprised by this but it actually works.
Synopsis: Jeffrey Dahmer murdered 17 men and boys in the American Midwest, becoming one of history’s most infamous serial killers. This is the story before that story. Jeff is an awkward teenager struggling to make it through high school with a family life in ruins. His bizarre behavior at school attracts unexpected friends, a group of band-nerds who form The Dahmer Fan Club, headed by Derf Backderf. But as they near graduation, Jeff’s depravity continues to take hold, and he spirals further out of control. (Films We Like)
Starring: Ross Lynch, Anne Heche, and Dallas Roberts
Writer: Marc Meyers
Director: Marc Meyers
Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (United States)
Running Time: 107mins
For showtimes and more, check out My Friend Dahmer on movietimes.com.
Coming of age has been a theme that has been covered often in films and this was also the case here but it’s never quite happened like this. Everybody knows about Jeffrey Dahmer so it’s fascinating to see a depiction of how he came to be a serial killer. The film frames this as a coming of age story focusing on the tailend of Dahmer’s (Lynch) high school years. It’s certainly not surprising how he ended up the way he did since all the signs were there.
Dahmer was part of a broken home, living with his younger brother David (Liam Koeth), his mentally unstable mother Joyce (Heche), and his father Lionel (Roberts) who desperately tried to hold things together in spite of everything going on. He was a prototypical loner, fascinated by death and a nearby jogger (Vincent Kartheiser). Already knowing what he would become ultimately added some interesting context to his actions. Also despite what he is and will be, it was still easy to root for him 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 and it was this that allowed him to be liked, to the point of having his own fan club led by a fellow student named John Backderf (Alex Wolff), but it was for the wrong reasons. Dahmer didn’t mind and seemed to having a good time and was fun to watch, with his weirdness occasionally coming out, however, 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 an almost quiet, stoic demeanour throughout. Again, the signs were there but it was still early for him. The film also tries to hint at more going on though it chooses to keep this a mystery thus keeping us wondering whether or not he’s given into his feelings until the end (although we know he eventually does). This was probably the right choice as the mystery 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. His still 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 and rootable. 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 by Ross Lynch.