If I was single and ready to mingle, and if I were so inclined, then I could see myself easily falling for the charm of Sebastian Stan. He seems sharp and witty, and he has the major bonus of looking like Sebastian Stan. So Fresh doesn't seem to require any major suspension of disbelief when viewers get to see Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones), a young woman jaded by the modern dating scene, fall for the charm of Steve (played by Stan). Things start to move quite quickly, and it's not long until Noa is heading off for a weekend break with Steve. They'll be in the middle of nowhere. No phone signal. No other people to be bothered by. And no easy way to head home if Steve turns out to be quite different from how he presents himself. And here's something you may not have seen coming . . . Steve turns out to be quite different from how he presents himself.
Most people already know what Fresh is about, but I'm going to keep things as vague as possible here, if only for the people who may be completely surprised by how the film plays out. Let me just say that Fresh quickly turns into a film that is very different from the opening scenes, yet it also stays focused on the same issues at the dark heart of the story. There's tension, there are moments that feel quite horrific, and there is a lot of black comedy running through it, but the most impressive aspect of the movie is the way it remains so identifiable for anyone who has even dipped one toe into the murky and dangerous waters of the modern dating experience.
Director Mimi Cave, making her feature debut after almost a decade of work in short film/music video formats, knows exactly what tone she wants throughout, working well with a smart script from Lauryn Kahn (her second feature), and she knows what to show onscreen and what to imply. The plot doesn't stand up under any decent amount of scrutiny, but Cave and Kahn keep things well-paced and entertaining enough throughout to distract anyone from overthinking the whole thing.
The likeable leads also help, of course. Stan makes use of every ounce of his innate appeal to keep his character eminently watchable, even when his behaviour becomes worse and worse. Edgar-Jones provides a good balance to Stan, countering his upbeat and carefree demeanour with her cynicism and determination to outwit a man she realises seemed too good to be true because he was too good to be true. Jojo T. Gibbs is a real treat, playing Mollie, the BFF of Noa, and someone who ends up doing some investigating into the life of her new man. Daya Okeniyi is also very good, his character dragged into a situation by Mollie that he soon realises he's not really wanting to be involved in. Andrea Bang and Charlotte Le Bon are two women who are connected to Steve in very different ways, and both do very well in their relatively small roles.
I can see many people being put off by the main turn that this film takes, it certainly takes things down a surprisingly dark and twisted path, but anyone sticking with it will be rewarded with some sly comedy that offsets a lot of the horror with constant reminders that the real horror, the horror we are all more likely to experience ourselves, comes from the experience of women trying to find someone worth spending time with in a world full of misogyny, internal debates about standards and compromises, and random dick pics.
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