Noah (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is completely disillusioned with the dating scene when she meets charming stranger Steve (Sebastian Stan) in a supermarket. After agreeing to take him out for the weekend despite warnings from her friend Mollie (Jojo T. Gibbs), she is shocked to discover that Steve has an unusual appetite.
“Hopefully this makes a good story,” Noah (Edgar-Jones) tells his best friend Mollie (Gibbs) as she prepares for another first date full of awkward small talk, casual misogyny and disgusting fashion choices. It’s a required approach in the world of modern dating, where fear for your safety feels as commonplace as falling in love, and sometimes all you can hope for is a terrifying experience that makes for an entertaining anecdote. That’s certainly what Noah gets when she falls for smooth-talking, self-deprecating, non-social media surgeon Steve (Stan) and finds herself – to use Mollie’s word – “thickmatized” to take him on a surprise weekend getaway go after just a few dates and find out what he really means when he says “I don’t eat animals”.
Fresh is a two-half film built around a carpet train for eternity (and an overly enjoyable delayed title sequence). The first act quickly and effectively establishes the bond between Noah and Steve, developed through brilliant, naturalistic chemistry and impromptu banter between the two leads. Then, in a bold move reminiscent of Amy Dunne’s “cool girl” monologue, it’s revealed Ex girlfriendthe film shows his hand and spirals into bloodier, pulpier territory.
It walks effortlessly between unimaginable horror and knowing comedy, achieved in large part through Stan and Edgar-Jones’ unwavering commitment to both the tenderness and theatricality required to engage in all aspects of the storyline . Stan in particular is having fun and unleashing the kind of off-kilter energy we’ve seen from him recently Pam & Tommyand Edgar-Jones manages to make Noah’s reaction to an extraordinary situation totally believable, giving it enough sharpness and dimension to develop the character well beyond a simple scream queen.
Even before the big reveal, extreme close-ups of gnashing teeth and superbly cut meat montages induce sticky nausea.
Mimi Cave’s impressive first feature film directing is also key to striking that genre-bending tone, weaving operatic, fantastical sequences with blunt editing and goalless action; Your camera starts out fairly static, but Noah becomes more disoriented. Even before the big reveal, extreme close-ups of grinding teeth, superbly cut meat montages, and the increased volume of gulping and chewing evoke a feeling of sticky nausea, and the soundtrack’s a steady stream of ’80s bangers, poppy melodies, and more classic instrumentals reinforces that emotional roller coaster ride.
It’s not perfect; A device that has Noah talking through a wall is clunky and unnecessary, Mollie feels underdeveloped and tropical at times, and one could argue that changing tempo after half an hour is risky and leads to a loss of tension. The script’s “independent women” moments and dating-related cynicism can also be a bit on the nose, as can the allegory surrounding the ownership and objectification of female bodies. But if you don’t take this element too seriously and get carried away by the heightened absurdity of it all, Fresh is an eye-candy, stomach-churning, intense delight.
It’s as subtle as a sledgehammer, but Fresh’s bold storytelling, rollicking performances, and consummate direction make for a flavorful, highly entertaining concoction. Deliciously crazy stuff by Mimi Cave and author Lauryn Kahn.