Film review: ‘FRESH’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’


Don’t be put off by the schlocky marketing picture for the film Fresh which features a severed hand in supermarket meat packaging. While relevant to the story, it doesn’t quite do justice to what is a mostly stylish and subversive thriller.

Here, single woman Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) having endured a string of bad dates including one with an irritating hipster who criticises her clothes, stumbles upon the handsome and witty doctor Steve (Sebastian Stan) in of all places the fruit and veg section of the supermarket. While he might seem a better prospect than the assortment of numbskulls to which she has previously subjected herself, alarm bells should have rung immediately as Dr Steve is a dead ringer for Ted Bundy.  When he invites her for a romantic weekend away, the ‘too good to be true’ doctor’s real intentions become apparent.  Waking up chained to a bed in a windowless room, Noa suddenly finds herself in a living nightmare.  I won’t reveal exactly what old Steve’s scheme is here but suffice to say even the most committed carnivores are unlikely to touch meat for about a month after watching this film.  While her situation seems terrifying and hopeless Noa realises she has some power in this dynamic and begins to play a cat and mouse game with her creepy captor.

The film’s first-time director, Mimi Cave appears to be an exciting new talent.  She captures this strange tale with an unnerving mix of vivid colours and precise framing that shows a command of the screen and cleverly reflects the meticulous methodology of the sinister Dr Steve. Fresh will no doubt evoke comparisons with the ‘social commentary’ horror of Jordan Peele who, with Get Out and Us, created two of the genre’s most intriguing and thoughtful films of recent times.  While the subtext regarding the treatment of the female body by men is fairly obvious, thankfully like Peele, Cave doesn’t hammer home her theme in a way that detracts from the film’s unsettling realism.

As the would-be victim, Noa, Daisy Edgar-Jones is excellent as she shifts from slightly caustic but hopeful romantic to terrified captive and feisty, cunning adversary. Sebastian Stan is alarmingly believable as the deranged Dr Steve, outlining his shocking plan to Mia with chilling matter of factness and pursuing his vile quest with astonishing commitment.  Jojo T Gibbs also provides amusing support as Noa’s protective, no nonsense, social media-obsessed bestie, Mollie.

For most of its running time Fresh is riveting but it unfortunately runs out of steam toward the end and leans on familiar thriller plot devices as well as some questionable humour that slightly undercuts the drama.  For the most part, though, this is a potent, somewhat queasy thriller that will leave many keen to see Mimi Cave’s next project.  Not recommended for a first date.

Nick’s rating:    1/2

Genre: Thriller.

Classification: R.

Director(s): Mimi Cave.

Release date: 4th Mar 2022.

Running time: 114 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.

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