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Film Review: “My Friend Dahmer” (2017) ★★★★


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In most cases, there are always serious reasons behind every individual who takes the criminal path. For some, it can be the need to satisfy their old but still fresh anger; for others – simple curiosity. But how much do we really know about the circumstances that lead this or that individual onto the path of no return? For instance, if we talk about Jeff Dahmer – what did turn him into a notorious killer? Sometimes, in order to learn that, we are left with no other choice but to watch one merciless murder after another to draw a psychological portrait of the serial killer. Yet, director Marc Meyers has chosen a completely different approach. I believe, his approach can be much more effective than showing a senseless and gruesome act of violence that can shatter any sane mind.

Set in mid-70’s, the film introduces Jeff Dahmer. He is in high school and struggles to make friends or find a true friend. At the same time, there is not much for him to look forward when he gets home. His mother does not give him any attention at all. It is only in his little lab that Dahmer can enjoy himself. And by saying ‘enjoy’, one should understand that here Jeff would spend hours dissolving dead animals – like cats, just to see their bone structure. We continue to follow Dahmer’s misfortunes at school and his inner struggle against the beast inside him. Eventually, that struggle becomes useless as he slowly gives in, turning into the scary man who will claim seventeen innocent lives several years later.

Together with Jeff, we follow Joyce Dahmer’s arguments with Jeff’s father. All of these leave a noticeable negative impact on young Jeff, who lacks the love, respect, and care that everyone is supposed to get from their family. Does it contribute to who he is about to become? That is pretty obvious. Terrifyingly, Jeff’s passion for chemistry is what occupies his mind at the time. All he can think is what chemical substances can do to a person’s body. Those thoughts seem to fill the emotional gap the young man experiences in his life.

“My Friend Dahmer” is an adaptation of the book by “Derf Backderf” that provides an impressive look into the world of a soon-to-become serial killer, Jeff Dahmer. We follow the chain of events in his life that eventually drove him to kill so many people. As the film leads us into his mind, the experience of exploring Jeff’s inner world turns into an unpleasant, gut-wrenching pain. And it seems that there is no way to cure that awful feeling.

Having that said, “My Friend Dahmer” cleverly unfolds the story of early years of Dahmer’s life – his school experience, his demons and how he moves from exploring dead animals to humans. Even though the horrible murders that took place in a real life are not captured in the film, the amazing performance delivered by Ross Lynch as Jeff Dahmer is more than enough. And trust me, the stomach-wrenching feeling will follow you for quite a while.

 

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