Sundance Film Festival: ‘FRESH’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

In the past decade, we’ve seen a shift in the conventions of dating. We all think to ourselves, “Where has the romance gone?” The majority of single people are constantly going through the same cycle on dating apps and it can be so exhausting. It’s not about the connection anymore; it’s about checking all the boxes based on a couple of text messages exchanged back and forth. It’s hard to even consider that this is the new way of meeting someone in the digital age. It’s also interesting to call a red flag if the other person has no presence on social media, considering they are on a dating app. There are always awkward encounters, but nothing is as awkward as a bad date. Women’s intuition is powerful but there can always be that hopefulness that skews their judgement

In Mimi Cave’s directorial debut FRESH, we meet Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) who is frustrated by scrolling dating apps only to end up on lame, tedious dates. After getting yelled at in the street by her last date and getting an unsolicited picture on a dating app, she ends up meeting and giving her number to the awkwardly charming Steve (Sebastian Stan) after a produce-section meet-cute at the grocery store. It goes without saying that Sebastian Stan suited this role perfectly and still managed to surprise us with how talented he is. After they go on their first date at a local bar, sassy banter gives way to a chemistry-laden hook-up, and a smitten Noa dares to hope that she might have actually found a real connection with the dashing cosmetic surgeon. She accepts Steve’s invitation to an impromptu weekend getaway, only to find that her new paramour has been hiding some unusual appetites.

This is truly one of the most interesting concepts that I have seen in years. The social commentary that surrounds dating apps and the many horror stories that have come out of them; only amplifies the feeling in your gut when watching FRESH. Lauryn Kahn’s script blends genre tropes together, from horror to comedy, to romance, and hits all those beats. There are incredible frames and symbolic imagery that Cave presents in order to elevate the sharp-witted script. She deliciously ties everything together with her own style. The combination of Kahn’s script, Cave’s direction, and Alex Somers’ music create a horrific atmosphere that looks so polished on the outside, but can cut deep with the feminist allegory. The way the twists are executed in this film will keep surprising you until the very end.

FRESH has one of the best soundtracks of the year and will have you screaming at the situations that unfold in the film. It’s bold, unique, and a downright treat to witness a directorial feature debut this strong. Cave’s flashy style and extreme close ups capture such intimate moments through the female lens. The warmth that radiates through the lighting to create a safe, comfortable setting, only for it to be stripped away, adds to the theme of things not always being what they seem. Kahn’s script also has little details that you pick up on in order for women to understand how fearful the situation actually is. The film highlights the many ways women are mistreated and how we can be seen as commodities, just to be prepped and served for consumption without any real sense of agency in the eyes of men.

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