Fresh arrives on Disney + on March 18th.
People were naturally very excited to hear that a rom-com starring Marvel’s Sebastian Stan and Normal People’s Daisy Edgar Jones was to premiere at Sundance, a potential meet-cute for the ages. However, what director Mimi Cave had in store for viewers was less a meet-cute and more meat-cute.
Noa (Edgar-Jones) is tired of the dating scene, her Tinder flooded with fuckboys. But when all hope seems lost, she meets Sebastian Stan’s Steve, a charming doctor with a penchant for eye-rolling but cute humour. However, Noa’s friend Mollie (Jonica T. Gibbs) is highly suspicious of Steve’s non-existent digital footprint, expressing her feelings that this man is way too good to be true, and just maybe, he is.
Fresh plays out with a sly wink as screenwriter Lauryn Kahn’s playful, tongue-in-cheek story explores the pitfalls of online dating and the systemic rot of misogyny in everyday life. Here we find moments of exquisitely crafted human horror before unveiling the ‘true’ horror at the heart of the film. Cave plays her cannibalistic cards close to her chest, seducing us just like Steve lures Noa into a false sense of security. It’s telling that Mollie is innately suspicious of this upstanding, gentleman doctor while, in contrast, Noa falls head-over-heels for his perfect façade.
Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sebastian Stan in the film FRESH. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved
As we build to the crescendo, the film drops its sharpened blade and cuts the bullshit, bringing in the opening titles a good 20 minutes after the journey has begun. It is an exquisite reveal as Mimi Cave delivers a sharp slap that wakes you up and makes you realise, ‘oh, Fresh has only just begun. Everything before this was a complete ruse.’ From there, Cave fully leans into the deranged madness. Meanwhile, Sebastian Stan delivers one of his most crazy performances to date. Here his bulging eyes constantly assess Noa like a butcher assessing a pig, practically salivating while his sex appeal proves deeply alluring for even the most cautious of people.
A myriad of influences can be seen in Steve’s persona and style, from the disarmingly charming oeuvre of Mikkelsen and Hopkins Hannibal to Armin Meiwes, the ‘Consensual Cannibal.’ In the Machiavellian mind games Stan plays, he gets to fully lean into the devilishly diabolical doctor’s dark and deranged sociopathic persona. Meanwhile, Edgar-Jones is a joy to watch as she gradually turns the screws on Steve.
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Fresh approaches the objectification and commodification of women by literalising it, allowing for a palpable dread and disgust at the system Steve operates within. Some may baulk at the idea, but it’s genuinely not that far from the real-life global trafficking underworld that runs under the surface of our major cities and towns. All Lauryn Kahn and Mimi Cave have done is take the real-life endemic of misogyny and push it an inch or two further.
Given Cave’s background in music direction, Fresh is coated in a most delicious style. Its soundtrack produces banger-after-banger, weaving through Blood Orange, Karen O, Lady Wray and Duran Duran, many of the titles a nod to the film’s secret ingredient. There’s also a potent visual dynamism that clearly originates in the marriage of Cave’s music video background and Pawel Pogorzelski’s exceptional cinematography; Carpenter-Esque deep focuses, trippy chromatic aberrations. Cave provides a visual feast for the eyes whilst Steve’s feast makes you squirm in your seat.
Mimi Cave’s beautifully twisted treat leaves you hungry for more. Here Edgar-Jones further cements her rising star power while Stan chews on his role, savouring each and every bite. It’s always tricky to build on the monstrous nature of cannibals, but Cave adds a deliciously juicy spin on a classic dish – it’s prime rib horror.
Mimi Cave’s beautifully twisted treat leaves you hungry for more. Here Edgar-Jones further cements her rising star power while Stan chews on his role, savouring each and every bite.