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Fresh ★★★★



Director: Mimi Cave

Cast: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Sebastian Stan, Jojo T Gibbs, Charlotte Le Bon

Release: March 18, 2022 (Disney+ UK)

Navigating the choppy waters of modern-day dating is a task that requires a tremendous amount of resilience and tenacity, as there are so many apps and choices. Daisy Edgar Jones is fresh from her success within Normal People. She plays Noa, who, like so many, becomes jaded with the prospect of making countless swipes of dating profiles and being subjected to meaningless and, quite frankly, bad dates. Fresh manages to eschew the traditional romantic comedy tropes that rely on the trope of enduring many worthless online dates until the perfect one arrives by emphasising the pitfalls Noa encounters. There is the passive-aggressive date critiquing Noa’s appearance, toxic bachelorhood and the film outlines the perceived dangers of having to walk alone at night as a woman when returning from a date. Mimi Cave has to be applauded for portraying those instinctive nighttime precautions that women undertake to protect themselves from apparent danger and illustrates the everyday horrors that may be encountered in reality.

Fresh is, in that sense, a fresh approach to the established relationship genre. It is one of those films where it is preferable not to have advanced knowledge of its unique interpretation of this dating scene, so spoilers should be actively avoided. Noa does receive her meet-cute with a date that effectively sweeps her off her feet. However, that old adage certainly rings true at that moment via the warning that many mothers utter to their daughters – to be wary when someone seems too good to be true. Noa seems to have bitten off more than she can chew, and all that glitters is revealed not to be gold in Mimi Cave’s remarkable, intoxicating feature directorial debut.

Cave explores the dating world with aplomb, highlighting a whirlwind romance through warm amber hues and those initial euphoric, addictive moments when meeting someone new who seems perfectly aligned. The comic timing in Fresh is impeccable and draws the audience further into Noa’s world and unusual circumstances. Cave’s skilful direction also produces a career-defining performance from Edgar Jones, who shares delicious chemistry with Sebastian Stan as Steve. The build-up for the development of their burgeoning relationship is enthralling to watch and amplified with darkly comedic punctuations of an apt soundtrack.

Fresh embraces horror tropes through unsettling camera angles and plays with the notion of the embedded horrors within dating. The film equally explores visceral horror with close-ups of awkward eating mishaps on dates, thereby creating anxiety-inducing moments about the dating process. As dating often involves meeting for a food date, it also closely examines the collective rituals involving food, with Cave’s emphasis on the sensations assisted by close-ups, which seem to embrace the ridicule and grotesqueness of such act as explored in The Grande Bouffe and recent films such as Shiva Baby. Eating food can be a source of pleasure, with a shared experience, or an embarrassing fear-inducing experience with heightened pressure on a date. Cave’s direction addresses subtly with minimal dialogue and impressive editing.

As a cautionary tale of modern-day dating, the female friendship between Noa and Molly is engaging to observe despite Fresh’s stance. Molly, played by a relatable Jojo T Gibbs, is that friend waiting patiently as that back up for a lousy date and is protective of Noa. The chemistry and banter between them is another compelling aspect of Cave’s film. It is an appealing ingredient to secure that emotional investment in their characters and ongoing exploits. Their scenes together are well-paced, but the film overall suffers from an uneven tone that can be overlooked due to its various unexpected routes. Fresh subverts expectations and is a thrilling experience with relatable characters that will induce many gasp out loud moments with its daring outlook.

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