In ‘Fresh’, Girl meets Boy, falls in love but unfortunately turns out they have very different tastes
Going into ‘Fresh’ I believed I was about to watch a rom com with a darker twist. Somehow, I’d been misled or just got the wrong impression. There is definitely a twist but not the type you may be expecting, I know I certainly wasn’t. Unfortunately, the ‘twist’ is central to the storyline so writing a spoiler free review won’t be easy, but I’ll try.
If you’ve managed to stay off the internet and avoid spoilers so far then well done. I will do my utmost not to reveal anything crucial. What I will say is if you are someone with a nervous disposition, a weak stomach or that gets easily upset by ‘challenging’ or Taboo subject matters, then this film is not for you.
‘Fresh’ stars Daisy Edgar-Jones as ‘Noa’, a young unassuming girl who is looking for a relationship but not obsessed with finding love. It’s something she does in her free time and like most people is encouraged to do more by her best friend Mollie (Jonica T. Gibbs).
Steve (Sebastian Stan) is the mysterious charming stranger she meets in the grocery isle of the supermarket. They exchange pleasantries and sensing a vibe, she decides to take her friends advice and put herself out there more, so she gives him her number. The two begin dating and very quickly form an intense connection to each other. Steve asks her to go away with him for a weekend and during this trip away, things take a rather nasty and unfortunate turn when his true nature is revealed.
‘Fresh’ is the feature length directorial debut from Mimi Cave and all I can say is what a debut! Together with writer Lauryn Kahn, they have crafted a film that is certain to shock and offend some both with its subject matter and also its portrayal of men in the dating world. There is certainly no broad statement made here about all men, but the truth is most of us recognise the dating characteristics Noa encounters early on in the movie.
The pacing is great and gently leads us down the path towards terror. I would consider this more of a thriller, but it’s classified as a Black comedy, which I can understand in some ways. The terrifying scenario we are presented with is actually so over the top we can’t help but see how ludicrous the situation is.
But there is another level to this film outside of its central theme. On first look, some might wrongly view the film as anti-technology, assuming it’s taking a swipe at modern dating, but the opposite is true. Technology is actually a hero in this film. It’s through technology Noa’s friend Mollie is able to make useful enquiries. Despite negative experiences with online dating, it still enables you to size up (research/stalk) your date before meeting in real life.
People tend to be blunt online and cut to the chase a lot quicker i.e. send me nudes etc. When people meet in person, they are typically on their best behaviour. To some extent, it’s more of a show or performance. Some people are very good at lying, as seen at the start of most bad relationships. In contrast, the first thing most people do when meeting someone new online is check their social media and ‘digital footprint’.
People can hide a lot, but a few simple searches tend to reveal most basic details like friends, family, and some sort of history. Phone tracking apps also allow family and friends to locate you if you do go missing. Even the language we use when texting becomes a recognisable identifier, allowing someone who knows you to recognise if it is actually you texting. This is not my random rant in support of tech, these aspects all feature in this film
Fresh is the type of dating movie you’re unlikely to have seen before. It’s got great performances from its leads, especially Sebastian Stan who manages to find the perfect balance between charming and menacing. Unfortunately, by the time we reach the third act the movie has settled back into more traditional thriller territory, most of which we’ve seen before.
Despite the distasteful subject matter, the film manages to avoid excessive blood, guts, and gore, leaving some of the more gruesome ideas off camera. This film certainly won’t be for everyone but if nothing else, will make many of us think twice when dating or meeting new people. When you go out, make sure someone knows where you are!
Fresh is a terrifying twist on traditional dating movies, exploring the darker side of humanity in an unusual and savage way. A fantastic feature length debut from Mimi Cave.