In a film where right and wrong are so carefully defined, Fresh finds itself torn between genres.
Not a horror, comedy, or thriller, Fresh navigates its narrative between genres to make for a half-baked film. Set in the present day, Fresh follows Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones), a quick-thinking modern woman who navigates the tumultuous and absurd English dating pool. Bad date after bad date, she eventually meets Steve (Sebastian Stan) in a Hollywood meet-cute, that sets him apart. However, the sinister charm to this man wears off, and we discover that he’s not interested in women for romance, but for their organs.
In director Mimi Cave’s debut, bodies act as currency. She establishes a well-defined and interesting clinical gaze. Extreme-close ups subliminally explore the fragments and segments of bodies, turning sexual exploration into clinical inspection. As the sexual chemistry between the couple disperses and the depiction of desired bodies is subverted, Cave’s gaze becomes sterile, as the bodies are positioned as a commodity. The film, at this point, may be paying homage to the genre-defining Eyes Without a Face (1960), as the sinister, clinical plot utilises women’s flesh as a mad surgeon’s motivation.
However, whilst the visual dynamic of the film culminates to a clear horror/thriller stance, the narrative itself isn’t given the same clarity. As the film decides to neglect plot development halfway through the film, we are left with a discombobulated genre narrative that falls short. Daisy Edgar-Jones, known for her restrained and submissive role as Marianne in the 2020 mini-series Normal People, lacked the horrific charisma to articulate this demanding role. Sebastian Stan’s characterisation is reminiscent of Jared Leto’s 2016 Suicide Squad performance, in the most absurd manner, as “crazy” is acted through widened eyes and obsessive yelling.
The lack of conviction in its acting forces the film to lose any grip on its genre. The audience’s collective laughs at the absurd obscenity of Stan’s performance in the film’s “gripping” final sequence, and Edgar-Jones’s crying, highlight how unconvincing and juvenile their performances are—leaving the film to unravel as it steers further towards a not-very-funny comedy.
Fresh is a slightly stale take on psycho-feminist horror. Reminiscent of the likes of 2020’s Promising Young Woman, it finds itself torn between having something to say and not articulating it well. It could potentially have been redeemed with different casting, but with a lousy plot and lazy script, it’s difficult to judge if that could even save it.
The title of the movie and the credits begin 33 minutes into the movie.