Sundance Film Festival 2023: ‘Fair Play’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Men and women have different perceptions of each other. Women are often seen as inferior, and men think of themselves as this higher power. Misogyny is embedded in everyone’s psyche because of patriarchal standards. It comes down to social conditioning at a very young age; as you get older, it can be difficult to rewire your brain. The contrast is seen in the workplace among all industries, as women still need to work twice as hard to prove themselves. In Fair Play, written and directed by Chloe Domont, a newly engaged couple is put to the test when one gets promoted at their shared workplace. It is a sleek, erotic thriller that explores gender roles and their reversal in the modern world. 

A New York couple, Emily (Phoebe Dynevor) and Luke (Alden Ehrenreich) are in love. They met while working in the same office and haven’t told anyone about their relationship. The company they work for is one of the largest investors in the city, and Human Resources would get involved if anyone found out. Dynevor and Ehrenreich have incredible chemistry during the more loving moments of Emily and Luke’s relationship, but they shine once the claws come out because of a promotion at work. Luke attempts to undercut Emily at every turn and feels emasculated after the shocking turn of events in the office. What started as a “power couple” supporting each other to rise to the top turned into a vicious game of dominance in the workplace and the relationship. 

Domont’s script is so fresh because of how sophisticated the dialogue was between Emily and Luke. In the beginning, they’re playful with each other as they crave each other’s touch at every moment. The words exchanged are thoughtful, sweet and supportive. The innocent conversations about the office and their relationship came from a healthy place of concern. Everything that is said in the first half is completely twisted in the second half as Luke and Emily use previous harmless conversations as weapons against each other. Dynevor exudes this fierceness with plenty of emotion for Emily, while Ehrenreich turns into himself and bottles the mania Luke’s feeling as he slips away from the company. When things become difficult, your partner’s true colours will always show, and Domont shows how bad it can get. 

Fair Play shows how women in power can still make a man feel uncomfortable and degraded. Domont’s script is electric and engaging, as her characters never miss a beat when arguing with each other. The flip of the power dynamics within the household before and after the promotion is unsettling to watch. Dynevor and Ehrenreich are powerhouses in this, as the beast inside their characters is revealed for different reasons. As you watch the film, you feel that Luke can’t treat Emily worse than he already is. Ultimately, Luke’s self-esteem is so low by the end of this film that he tries his utmost to turn it only to cause more destruction. It is such an important film to watch because of how unfairly women can be treated in their relationships by men who project their insecurities on their partners. 

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