There are three questions I had when the end credits began to roll in the new horror-thriller-jet black comedy FRESH. One, will I ever be able to stop thinking about/talking about this film? Two, is the world ready for it? And three, how will anything at Sundance be able to top this? There have been a lot of amazing films in Sundance’s Midnight lineup, including HEREDITARY, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, and THE BABADOOK. FRESH can easily be included in this pantheon of classics and I think will be one of the special, standout films we talk about for years to come.
Directed by Mimi Cave (her first feature) and written by Lauryn Kahn, FRESH is one of the most twisted, original horror movies I have seen. My jaw was on the floor 30 minutes into the movie and has remained so ever since. The film perfectly balances entertaining horror elements with social commentary, in this case a critique on dating culture and women’s role as a commodity in it, which is the perfect recipe for an exceptional film in the genre.
FRESH is a movie that is best when you go in knowing as little as possible, so I am going to keep any plot descriptions to a minimum. Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is fed-up with online dating, unable to find any decent men as she swipes through her Puzzle Piece dating app. But as luck would have it, while in the produce section at her local grocery store, she runs into a handsome, cotton candy grape-loving surgeon named Steve (Sebastian Stan) who asks for her number; he is charismatic, friendly, and seems different than all of the other guys.
After a successful first date—and much to the dismay of Noa’s best friend Mollie (Jojo T. Gibbs)—Noa and Steve’s relationship starts to move extremely quickly. Mollie is immediately concerned that Noa is “dickmatized” and fears she is ignoring obvious red flags, such as Steve not having an online presence. But even with Mollie’s protestations, Noa is determined to keep seeing Steve. After all, he seems to be a really nice guy. What is the worst that could happen?
The absolute best compliment I can give this film is that you can tell it was written by women, for women. Of course men are going to enjoy it too, but this film bleeds (literally) the female experience. From the little moments like being scared to walk to your car alone, to having best friends that know to Google stalk the sh*t out of a potential date’s entire life (right down to the Zillow listing), Kahn’s script is a testament to the horror, humor, and sisterhood of what it is to be a woman, particularly a single woman, in 2022.
Kahn and Cave effortlessly toe the tonal line through horror, black comedy, thriller, and drama, never being pulled too far into one genre in a way that would disrupt the flow of the film. In a Q&A after the film, Kahn referenced similarly toned shows and movies, like KILLING EVE, that find humor and levity in very dark situations.
Not only is FRESH beautifully shot, Cave also made sure it has a phenomenal soundtrack, one that Daisy and especially Sebastian dance their asses off to. Not since Oscar Isaac in EX MACHINA has there been such an iconic, and sinister, dance routine to 80s music. I can already tell that that is going to be a much-discussed topic in the weeks and months to come. I will fully admit that my Shazam was very active during the film by helping me identify some of these 80s gems. Cave began her career as a music video director, so it should come as no surprise that she would make the soundtrack its own character in the film.
The film lives and dies in the performances of Daisy, Sebastian, and Jojo, and they absolutely knock it out of the park. I am so excited to see Daisy get such a meaty (pun intended) role after her amazing turn as Marianne in NORMAL PEOPLE. Her inherent likability and charisma make you root for Noa, and more importantly relate to her, from the very beginning. And on top of that, she kicks major, major ass.
Sebastian is clearly having the time of his life as Steve, reveling in the darker desires of his character like he did as Jeff in I TONYA. Daisy and Sebastian’s chemistry is off the charts, even during the film’s darkest moments, which really adds to the tension on-screen as you wonder what is going to happen next. Jojo, on the other hand, steals pretty much every scene she is in, immediately becoming both the crowd favorite and voice of the audience by calling out red flags when she sees them and not putting up with any bs. If I had seen this film with an audience, I can guarantee there would be cheers whenever she comes on-screen.
FRESH is going to be living in my brain for a very long time and it’s hard to know if I will ever be able to look at meat the same way again, much less eat it. Movies like this are completely energizing and make me excited to be a film critic. This film is certainly not going to be for everyone, especially the more :ahem: squeamish. But as a film lover, there is nothing like seeing a movie at a Festival, contributing to the discourse, and being a part of building the buzz to make sure a special film like this is seen by as many people as possible.
Good news! Searchlight Pictures acquired FRESH last week, and will make it available on Hulu March 3! Mark your calendars and maybe start going vegetarian in the lead-up to the movie. You’ll thank me.
Movie Review: A
**Photos in this post are courtesy of the Sundance Institute**
2 thoughts on “Sundance Movie Review: Fresh”
Good review, but one thing for accuracy: her friend was Mollie, not Millie.
Thanks for this!! Great catch. That’s what I get for writing at 4 AM 🙂