Directed by Mimi Cave – Screenplay by Lauryn Kahn.
Modern dating can be difficult. We all like to think that we can have a grand love story and just meet someone out of the blue, but, nowadays, many people find their eventual partners through online dating. In Mimi Cave’s FRESH — her feature debut as a director – Noa (played by Daisy Edgar-Jones) is tired of spending so much time finding potential suitors on the online ‘meat market.’ Her online dating usually ends with disappointing dates with rude men or with men sending inappropriate images that she never once asked for. So, it is understandable that she excitedly chases romance when she meets and flirts with the undeniable charming ‘Steve’ (played by Sebastian Stan) in a local supermarket. In spite of obvious red flags (he has no Instagram account!), she decides to go away with him on a weekend vacation, where she will soon find out that he has an uncommon ‘hobby’ — to say the least — and that his intentions aren’t good.
FRESH is the kind of film that I think is more enjoyable the less you know about it going in, because it, as a film, changes its genre as it goes along. While I don’t want to spoil the film, I also think it is a little bit difficult to discuss it without revealing what other projects clearly inspired it. Therefore this review does mention the film’s inspirations, its tone, and things like that, but I have also tried not to go into too many specifics. However, I totally understand if you feel it is safer to jump down to my score and my final thoughts to decide whether or not you should check it out. You do you. But if you’ve seen the film, or if you’re daring enough to let me discuss it, then please do read on.
After the somewhat rom-com-ish setup, the film does something really cool. After thirty-some minutes, the film completely switches genres and the switch is announced by the sudden but very late appearance of a stylized title sequence. What was merely a cute romantic-comedy announces itself as a thriller. This was preceded by smart dialogue (and clever symbolic lighting) that clues you in without hitting you over the head with the forthcoming not-so-unpredictable switch, or twist. As the genre and tone of the film changes so do the main performances, which allows for Stan and Edgar-Jones to show some range here, even though their roles are not very complex, to be truthful. Outside of the main characters, I was also slightly disappointed by how little the film actually did with the character played by Charlotte Le Bon.
In the dating comedy-thriller FRESH, there are some bits and pieces of Rob Reiner’s Misery and Jordan Peele’s Get Out, with a little bit of Julia Ducournau’s Raw sprinkled on top. It’s an engaging thriller with some familiar story beats that we can recognize from some of the films above. Sebastian Stan’s entertaining performance is also very American Psycho-ish, and the Marvel-actor clearly had a great time with this film, which also features some strange but fun song choices.
Although I actually do think the switch, or twist, is better and more exciting than the execution of the latter half of the film, I thought Mimi Cave’s feature-length directorial debut was really entertaining. It perhaps doesn’t ever stand out as its own original thing, but I think this is definitely a cult-film-in-the-making, and it is so strange that this kind of film is on Disney+ (it’s on HULU in the United States) in my region, since the actual subject matter is definitely not what anyone would associate Disney with.
7.5 out of 10
– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.