This black comedy thriller is queasily enjoyable!
Online dating is rarely easy. If you have ever seen the MTV series Catfish or had your own share of bad dates, this is something you will know already. Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is no stranger to the world of modern dating herself and when we first get to see her, she is having a less-than-enjoyable dinner with yet another loser she has met on the internet.
Thankfully, she is quick to ditch this creep but before she has time to swipe left on some other masculine swine, she meets plastic surgeon Steve (Sebastian Stan) at her local supermarket. It’s not long before he sweeps her off her feet and treats her to a surprise weekend away.
Unfortunately, this is no romantic comedy. While Noa and Steve do share chemistry, their relationship takes a turn when she later discovers his rather nasty secret. As such, the whole thing eventually moves into horror movie territory as Noa is taken captive and placed in a cell adjacent to other kidnapped women. The reason why Steve abducted her soon becomes clear but it would be wrong of me to give away too many spoilers, as it might spoil your appetite for the rest of the movie.
The casting of Sebastian Stan is a masterstroke as he has rarely been cast in villainous roles. He comes across as sweet, charming and, unlike many of the other men Noa has dated, seemingly quite normal, so it’s a surprise to both her and the viewer when the dark side of his character is revealed. Still, Noa isn’t about to be messed around. She’s been hurt before and while Steve hurts her again – in ways that are unimaginable – she has the strength to hold her own and face off against her captor.
Director Mimi Cave, who makes her movie directing debut here, is adept at maintaining suspense. After Steve’s unsavoury past-time is revealed, a lesser director could have served up a movie that is little different from the torture porn movies we have seen before. The fact that she manages to keep us on the edge of our seats, despite the familiarity of the plot, does much to hold our interest, even when some of the narrative turns later in the film become a little too hard to stomach.
While much of the film’s focus is on Noa and Steve, there is still room for other characters to make their presence known. Jojo T. Gibbs is a standout as Noa’s best friend Mollie, a woman who has every right to be suspicious of Noa’s latest beau.
When her gal pal goes missing, Mollie seeks assistance from Paul (Dayo Okeniyi), her bartender ex-boyfriend, and their involvement in the plot triggers more shocks and surprises along the way. We also get to meet Steve’s wife Ann (Charlotte Le Bon), a disarmingly sweet woman, who seems to be unaware of what her husband likes to get up to when he is away from home.
With a good cast, a twisty-turny plot, and moments of black comedy that break up the grim realities that we are presented with, Fresh manages to…erm…keep things fresh throughout the almost two-hour running time. It’s enjoyable to watch, largely because it’s not as horrific as it could have been. There are scenes of gore but as these aren’t overdone, you won’t be forced to cover your eyes or put aside your Saturday night takeaway while watching.
Things get a little more conventional in the film’s final third. As expected, a rescue attempt is made and the tables are turned on Steve before he has the opportunity to get the better of Noa. The film transitions into standard thriller mode and jettisons some of the shock value moments that came before it. However, before predictability has the chance to fully set in, more plot twists occur and the film manages to surprise once again.
Fresh won’t be the best horror movie you will see this year. It won’t be the most original either. But as an exploration of the darker side of modern dating and the risks we take whenever we decide to swipe right (or strike up a conversation with somebody at the fruit & veg aisle), it mostly delivers. It’s probably not a movie to watch with your first date, especially if you are clueless about their taste in film (and sofa snacks). But if you’re home alone or with a trusted partner, and hungry for a movie that will serve up a platter of both chills and thrills, this might satisfy your particular appetite.
Read More: Fresh Ending Explained
Verdict - 7.5/10