The Friendship Game: Playing for Keeps

Would you like to play a game?

Directed by Scooter Corkie, The Friendship Game tells the story of Cotton (Kaitlyn Santa Juana) and Zooza (Peyton List), two friends who are preparing for the next chapter of their lives. When they come across a mysterious device at a yard sale, they are told that this game will prove whether or not their relationship will survive the changes ahead. For only $10, they purchase the machine and gather friends Courtney and Rob (Kelcey Mawema and Brendan Meyer) to share their deepest longings. But, as their hearts desires begin to come true, the four must fight to keep their relationship (and themselves) alive.

Written by Scooter Corkie, The Friendship Game is a frenetic and wild fever dream into the fears of the next generation. Although the demonic board game is a trope that we?ve seen before, Friendship Game unravels in its own unique way. By breaking the story into the perspectives of its characters, Corkie manages to emphasize the differences between this group of friends and devote proper time to each of their wants and needs. This is a game that wants you to care about all of its players individually, as opposed to as a unit. In doing so, the film manages to isolate each character and expose the flaws in their personal hopes and dreams.

Performances across the board are fairly solid, but the standout remains young Peyton List. Having come into her own on Cobra Kai, List has a fury about her that keeps the film moving. Although this isn?t a star-making role, it does show tremendous growth in her skills as an actress and proves that she can carry a film on her shoulders. 

Even so, the most interesting aspect of the film is the way in which it re-pieces together its narrative. By holding back the truth about its characters until absolutely necessary, Game manages to keep you guessing. With an energetic pacing and chaotic storytelling, this game feels like it?s playing without rules (and that is often to its benefit). 

Nevertheless, the heart of this Game is its exploration of the nature of friendship. Teased by a mysterious woman into playing the game, Cotton believes that she can use this to test her relationships with her friends. As the future approaches, questions linger as to whether or not, they will still be there to support one another as life as things begin to change. (After all, winning the game means that ?your friendship will survive?.) However, in the process of playing the game, their hopes and dreams reveal their selfishness. Although Cotton simply wants to keep the group together, the others have their own ideas and dreams.

And those dreams do not necessarily run coincide with those of their friends. 

In this way, Game attempts to highlight the damage that can be done in relationships when we undercut the desires of others by leaning into our own self-interest. Exposed by the terror of oncoming adulthood, their friendship reveals cracks in its foundation. In each case, the dark side of their dreams takes hold and acceptance of one another gives way to a desire to control. This form of self-centeredness wreaks havoc on their relationships as each person?s innermost desire cancels out the wants of others, forcing them to examine what it truly means to ‘hold on to your friends’.

Though chaotic at times, this Friendship Game is often fun to play. There is a wildness to its spirit that one cannot help but appreciate its ambition. At the same time, there?s a fury in its soul that can potentially give pause to think and reflect on our own motivations. 

The Friendship Game is available on VOD on Tuesday, January 3, 2023.

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