Sundance Film Festival Midnight Section
Reviewed for Shockya.com by Abe Friedtanzer
Director: Mimi Cave
Writer: Lauryn Kahn
Cast: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Sebastian Stan, Jojo T. Gibbs, Charlotte Le Bon, Andrea Bang, Dayo Okeniyi
Screened at: Sundance Film Festival Online, LA, 1/21/22
Opens: January 20th, 2022
Not all relationships are built to last. It’s important that both parties have similar goals and views of the world that can coexist with one another. Naturally, two people will change each other over the course of their time together, and grow to be okay with particularities and potentially strange interests. But there are absolutely incompatibilities that can be insurmountable and deeply problematic. Fresh explores one such instance that puts a woman in severe jeopardy when the new man in her life has a very different idea of what he wants from their relationship.
After a truly heinous date with a self-serving guy, Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) meets Steve (Sebastian Stan), who is polite and charming, and seems genuinely interested in her company. Their second date involves a trip to a mystery destination, and what Noa believes is a romantic getaway turns into a nightmare. She learns that Steve is in the business of surgically removing and selling body parts to be eaten by wealthy patrons willing to pay a fortune. Determined to survive, Noa does her best to remain resilient and figure out how to escape her sadistic captor.
This film is part of the Midnight section of the Sundance Film Festival, and though it doesn’t feature jump scenes, its content is certainly horrifying. It’s the kind of thing that you have to hope doesn’t actually exist in real life, but it does serve as an accurate if purposely exaggerated portrayal of the way some men treat women, considering their desires and needs as of the utmost importance and expecting them to be met without any protest. Steven speaks to Noa as if he is acting completely normal and she is crazy to be so upset by the idea that she must part with her limbs, the ultimate example of gaslighting.
This film benefits from a superb lead performance from Edgar-Jones, who made an equally strong impression in Hulu’s Normal People. What she had to contend with there was unpredictable but far less volatile and life-threatening, and she still brings all of herself, with an American accent, to the role, making Noa a fiercely watchable protagonist. Stan, who often plays the gruff hero, is fully ready to step into villainous territory, delighting in Steven’s twisted vision of reality in which he is doing a service and should be applauded for it.
Where this film’s storyline ultimately goes shouldn’t surprise audiences all that much, but it’s still worth going along for the ride for those who can stomach its themes. Though there is a warning regarding violence and gore, little is actually shown on screen when far more could have been seen. The terror that Noa and her fellow captives feel is adequately conveyed largely without gross-out scenes, and those that do make reference to the products of Steven’s twisted work are effective because of what they do not show and instead imply. This film is not for the faint of heart, but serves as an engaging and disturbing vision of the unchecked power of those who care far more about their own satisfaction than the suffering of others.
Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+