Directed by Mimi Cave
Streaming on Disney+ from 18th March 2022
Young woman Noa is having a hard time trying to find a partner. After going on numerous disastrous dates with men she’s found on dating apps, her luck seems to change when she meets a sweet guy named Steve in the supermarket. After a successful few dates, Steve invites Noa to go away with him to a surprise location. Despite her friend Mollie’s warnings, a head-over-heels Noa takes him up on the offer but soon realises that what Steve has in store for her is nothing she could have ever expected.
With a successful screening at Sundance Film Festival under its belt, tense, nail-biting thriller FRESH invites you on a date you’ll never forget as a dream hunk turns out not to be all he’s cracked up to be.
Stylishly presented, the film grips from the very start and sympathetically puts you in the shoes of its lead character, Noa. Daisy Edgar-Jones puts in a terrific performance as the young woman with little to no social circle or family, the perfect victim for Sebastian Stan’s charmer Steve. Right from the first date and subsequent meet-up, the warning signs are there but the way they’re presented to Noa doesn’t ring alarm bells, having been won over by the affable gent. It’s Noa’s best friend Mollie (Jojo T. Gibbs) who’s on high alert, though initially her reaction seems a bit over the top with she reacts badly to him not having a social media account like Instagram. However, the suggestion of going somewhere unknown with someone Noa’s only just met is when alarm bells really start ringing for both Mollie and the viewer, though Noa, who’s track record in finding a nice bloke isn’t so great, doesn’t want to ruin a good thing so agrees. No-one could imagine what Steve has lined up for her.
Sebastian Stan’s Steve is one of those guys that could easily worm his way into a woman’s life. Down to Earth, a good listener, someone who doesn’t take themselves seriously and seemingly has a great personality. Whether you’re a woman who’s had a string of bad dates or not, he seems an appealing guy who would certainly raise the heart-rate of the opposite sex. The fact he’s quite good looking is a bonus. However, there’s two sides to every coin and those watching the film will get the feeling that behind that all-encompassing smile lies something else: a devious, manipulative streak that this charming facade hides. When the truth is out, it’s quite shocking to come to terms with, even though it’s to be expected with various dialogue and visual cues. His nonchalant attitude towards Noa and the situation, so matter of fact about it, is chilling to watch and you begin to wonder about how it must be for women in similar situations to Noa, how powerless they must feel. You get a taste of it simply by being the viewer to this entire episode and even then it’s a horrible feeling, as though you’ve been fooled and taken advantage of as well.
The depravities we see in FRESH aren’t something new to the genre but it is a refreshing take on the idea which really puts the viewer on edge as the clock ticks away. It seems to embrace many ideas of modern life and intertwine them with the core plot twist, starting with the dating apps and even referencing stuff like subscription boxes which seem to have infiltrated many aspects of life nowadays. It goes to show that we might be living in an age of technology, but human nature hasn’t changed that much and where there is a kink, there’s often a way of servicing it…
For those who are squeamish, the film doesn’t dwell too much on the gory side of things though it is talked about and there’s various visual elements without it being explicit. It has just the right amount to make you clutch your pearls but not reach for the sick bucket, preferring to rely on the storytelling and setup whist your mind fills in the blanks.
When we discover the truth about Steve’s intentions, it’s impossible to tear yourself away from the screen. We’ve come on this journey with Noa, from the day they first met, and it’s something we, as a viewer, feel we need to see through to the very end. Thankfully, the momentum and stakes within the movie are kept high. The film cleverly limits the environments, even though we know others exists, to really ramp up the feeling that Noa has no-one to help her but herself, even if that’s not totally true. You’ll probably find yourself internally screaming at the screen, like I was, attempting to find a solution to her predicament and hoping that everything works out for Noa, but only time will tell…
A slick and daring horror-thriller that will no doubt have the entire female audience raging at the screen, FRESH is certainly a captivating, pulse-racing flick to tuck into.