Written by: Lauryn Kahn
Starring: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Sebastian Stan, Jonica T. Gibbs, Charlotte Le Bon, Dayo Okeniyi
Dating can feel like quite the meat market out there if you know what I mean. A set of interactions where you hope the person you’re interacting with not only can vibe with you but also not set off too many red flags as well. Fresh follows a particularly horrifying situation and stretches it out for all it is worth. Despite its surprises, it runs out of ideas fairly quickly once the second act arrives and just cannot stick its landing.
Not having much success with dating guys she finds online, Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) meets an intriguing man at the local supermarket and goes on a date with him. After hitting it off very quickly in their relationship, Steve (Sebastian Stann) asks Noa to go away with him for the weekend, which she agrees to. She then discovers this getaway has a few more surprises hidden within.
Anxieties held as a woman dating in this modern world would justly have someone’s guard up. It’s truly an unsafe world out there for them and they put themselves at risk anytime they head out to see some man they barely know. Fresh captures that fear well but very briefly. What the film turns into gets into something far more sinister and as much as it dominates the rest of the narrative to a dominating degree, it’s something that should not be openly discussed for those who have not seen it yet. A direction you kind of see coming, but still ultimately comes as a surprise. This is something that should be respected for each viewer to see on their own.
From what can be spoken of, the big change when the title drops later in the film crafts something intriguing but just does not adequately build upon it. Its allure quickly wears off and the film just stalls for nearly an entire act with wholly uninteresting conversations. Yes, the situation proves to be horrifying but the way it then shifts its narrative just takes the sting out of it all and then it mostly becomes a gross little picture. It mostly drops the horror element and just tries to coast to its inevitable conclusions, which, of course, came with no real surprise to it.
The rest of the feature just makes for some uncomfortable viewing and none of it carries the intrigue of what occurred in the first act. The enjoyment came in the build-up and the film had nowhere to go essentially. This leaves Sebastian Stann and Daisy Edgar-Jones gasping for air in order to make something of this story and it never manifests into something that could live up to the way it opens.
Mimi Cave stepped in as the director and she does some very intriguing things on a visual level, especially when things get much darker in the film. From the lighting and the cinematography of Pawel Pogorzelski, it brings something wholly interesting even when the screenplay involved does it no favors. She works well with the actors in getting the best out of them, especially considering what they had to work with.
The best exercise this feature has to offer is at which red flag would anyone have individually have tapped out from the situation and walked away from what was going on. This essentially becomes more integral for women, especially when the guy looks like Sebastian Stan who does all of the luring. This particular exercise also lays a level of introspection because it may be easy from the outside to state what they would or would not have done, but when one finds themselves in the raw emotion of everything going on, especially when every other interaction with men has been unpleasant, to say the least.
Fresh starts out as a strong commentary about the world of modern dating that should scare anyone and then shifts over into a different kind of horror. Two levels that if further developed could have made for something great but in the end, it just becomes quite the slog to get through as we wait for this inevitable conclusion to arrive. A bit of wasted potential especially considering the talent involved from the top-down trying to put this together. Perhaps this would resonate more with others if this fits more in line with what they enjoy in a horror feature, but it simply did not work.