Movie Review: ‘Fresh’

Director: Mimi Cave

Cast: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Sebastian Stan, Jonica T. Gibbs, Charlotte Le Bon, Andrea Bang

Plot: Noa is increasingly disillusioned with online dating when she happens to meet the charming and confident Steve at the supermarket. Their relationship develops quickly and before long they’re taking a trip together. It’s here that Noa discovers that Steve lives a disturbing double life.

Review: If you’re interested in this movie, and you don’t know what it’s really about, you should stop what you’re doing and go and watch it. It’s a very good movie and the story is expertly crafted to that it is best experienced knowing nothing about it. It’s a female-driven production with some great reveals, so if you can handle the gore then try and go in (ahem) fresh.

For the first 30 minutes of the movie this feels like a romantic drama. Noa (Edgar-Jones) is introduced on a tiresome date with ‘Chad’ trying to neg her for not wearing a dress and being more feminine. Noa is immediately sympathetic, having been left tired with the behaviour of oblivious men who feel entitled to an idealised girlfriend whilst making no effort on their behalf. Even if Steven (Stan) didn’t slide into her life with an easy, self-depreciating charisma and apparent sincerity we can see why she immediately falls for him. Just the fact that he listens to her, doesn’t force his values onto her and shows an interest in her life is refreshing enough – the fact that he’s handsome Mr. Smooth feels like an added bonus. Noa’s best friend Mollie (Gibbs) hasn’t met Steve, so comes across as alarmist when she points out that his lack of a social media presence and plan to take Noa on a romantic weekend are red flags.

When the title card for the movie drops it’s a surprising half hour into the movie, and comes with the reveal that Steve has something sinister is store for Noa (and yes, we’re going into spoilers). It’s a brilliant set-up, as it feels like we’ve been taken in by Steve’s charms right up until that point. After travelling to an isolated house and having her drink spiked, Noa finds herself chained up in a cell under the house. She’s not one of several women kept prisoner by Steve for the purpose of having their flesh harvested and sold on the black market for extraordinary amounts of money to the untouchable 1%. From this point we follow the points of view of Mollie trying to track down her missing friend, and Noa as she comes to realise that playing to Steve’s ego and his need to make a human connection she may have a chance at escape.

Sebastian Stan has been on an absolute roll since coming to the mainstream as The Winter Soldier in the MCU, and since then he’s been taking on high-concept, challenging roles such as this. Steve’s shift from the perfect man to the manic, New Wave loving cannibal butcher has shades of Patrick Bateman but with a subtle venerability that Noa ultimately has to exploit. We weren’t familiar with Daisy Edgar-Jones through her TV work, and she is every part the foil to Stan, with Noa being as desperate as Steve is maniacal but having to maintain her demeanour in order to survive. She is forced into playing the role of expected romantic partner as it has become her only way to disarm her monstrous captor.

On a thematic level Flesh is about a women’s experience seeking companionship in an environment fraught with disappointment and very real danger. The failure of the men in their lives is recurring, and the need of women to protect and believe one another is consistent throughout the movie, as is the notion that a woman may have to play the role of subjugated partner in order to escape a risky situation. The dynamics become more complex and interesting when Mollie finds Ann (Le Bon), the wife of ‘Steve’, who reflects the victim in an abusive relationship by protecting Steve in spite of his horrific hobby and business. Although unsaid, Ann’s true role in the relationship is all the more fascinating when…well, I’ll just leave it at ‘when she take off her pants’. This aspect of the character prompts some real discussion about how she came to be in this life, and it adds more layers of intrigue to her actions in the final act.

Fresh was a very enjoyable movie, but in the weeks since we watched it we’ve found ourselves coming back to it time and time again. It’s a brilliant blend of design, storytelling, themes and performance. We’re certainly not put off by a horror movie with a heavy-handed social message, but Fresh combines the message with a fantastically darkly comedic thriller. You may even want to read into it that much, just take it as a game of cat and mouse between a prisoner and guard. Either way, take a look.

Rating: EIGHT out of TEN