A carefully disguised black comedy thriller that explores the horrors of modern dating.
Debuting director Mimi Cave serves us a buffet of contrasting themes in Fresh (2022); a dark horror, cleverly concealed as a romantic comedy. Through Cave’s hypnotically orchestrated suspense, the title credits only appear after 30 minutes – it is only then that the film’s grotesque main course is revealed.
Normal People’s Daisy Edgar-Jones charismatically plays Noa, a victim to the horrors of the modern dating scene. After a painful viewing of her casually misogynistic and racist date, we can’t blame Noa for falling for the charming allure of Steve (Sebastian Stan). Edgar-Jones masterfully acts out the empathetic nature of Noa, who, after being lured into Steve’s home, realises the hidden meaning when he says “I don’t eat animals.”
To the careful ear, Lauryn Kahn’s compelling script hints at Steve’s unusual appetites – in response to Noa asking what he’d like to eat, he cheekily responds with, “You.” Steve runs a lucrative business of vacuumed sealed delicacies – the harvested meat that is gradually stripped away from his kept-alive female victims (in order to preserve their “freshness”) is then processed for his own personal tastebuds, as well as those of his rich clientele. The carefully crafted cinematography of Pawel Pogorzelski along with Cave’s alluring visual language – the consistent red-hues, and visual Easter eggs (Noa and Steve ironically meet in the fresh produce section of a grocery store, where Noa is seen standing under a “Fresh Meats” sign) – we are given a delectable and at times hard-to-stomach visual masterpiece.
Stan compels us with his maniacal performance of Steve, whose natural chemistry with Edgar-Jones hits every gruesome beat as our expectations are satisfied watching Noa use her wits and enchanting femininity to outsmart Steve. Fresh serves us a raw allegory around the objectification and ownership of female bodies, rightfully placing Noa in the hierarchy of the “Good For Her” feminist trope. Kahn suspensefully teases the unnerving exploration of Ann (Charlotte Le Bon) – Steve’s wife and accomplice – before leaving it as an untied plotline for the audience’s interpretation.
Love and cannibalism: a flavour concoction in Cave’s deliciously deranged Fresh that definitely satisfied my appetite.
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