Fresh Synopsis: Frustrated by scrolling dating apps only to end up on lame, tedious dates, Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) takes a chance by giving her number to the awkwardly charming Steve (Sebastian Stan) after a produce-section meeting at the grocery store.
If social-media age dating wasn’t scary enough, director Mimi Cave and screenwriter Lauryn Kahn delve into a meet-cute gone wrong with their pointed horror offering Fresh. While their film doesn’t tread revelatory waters, Cave and Kahn craft an emphatic denouncement of the dating world’s twisted inequities.
Every aspect of Fresh feels well-tuned to the narrative’s deeper thematic connotations. Our protagonist Noa exists as a cynical realist after running the gamut of unpleasant dating experiences, often dealing with men who cruelly project their inherent insecurities upon her. When she meets the affable goofball Steve, things seem to be finally taking a turn for the better.
Without spoiling the narrative’s macabre journey, Noa soon finds herself in her most chilling relationship dynamic yet. Cave and Kahn infuse their horror sensibility as a clever magnification of Noa’s deeply-seated dread towards dating. The duo effectively delves into how the modern dating world continues to transform into a dangerous playing field – one that’s often defined by men’s disturbing levels of possessiveness and commodification towards women.
Even with its concerning connotations, Fresh doesn’t operate in a constant dreary state. The filmmaking team balances darkly comedic flourishes throughout its twisted narrative, finding provocative ways to elicit chuckles out of challenging situations (I loved the use of 80’s pop confectionary songs). Stars Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sebastian Stan possess the range and gravitas to articulate the film’s tricky tonal balance, with Stan stealing the screen in particular as Noa’s enigmatic boyfriend.
Fresh can get too caught up in its horror machinations at times, which ultimately prevents a more nuanced depiction of its engaging subject matter. That said, Cave and company strike a piercing statement when their narrative eventually finds its rhythm.