FRESH Review - Sundance Film Fest
E. L. King calls the debut feature film from Mimi Cave an exhilarating and evocative thriller exploring the perils of modern dating and high society cannibalism.
Fresh is the debut feature film from Chicago born director Mimi Cave who began her career creating music videos before moving on to short films like the critically acclaimed I'm Happy, I Promise, a selection of SXSW in 2020. Fresh was written by Lauryn Kahn whose previous feature writing credits include comedies like Ibiza (2018) based on a real-life trip she took with her best friends to Spain. The film stars Daisy Edgar-Jones (War of the Worlds, Normal People) as Noa and Sebastian Stan (The Devil All the Time) as Steve. We had the opportunity to screen the film at Sundance Film Festival during it's world premiere on January 21, 2022. The film also stars Jojo T. Gibbs as Mollie, Charlotte Le Bon as Ann and Andrea Bang as Penny in supporting roles.
The film focuses on a woman, frustrated by scrolling dating apps only to end up on lame, tedious dates, Noa takes a chance by giving her number to the awkwardly charming Steve after a produce-section meet-cute at the grocery store. During a subsequent date at a local bar, sassy banter gives way to a chemistry-laden hookup, 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.
Fresh echoes just about every dating experience that I had while living in Los Angeles, how a woman feels on the dark walk back to her car—after a date when you're trying to be polite, but desperately seeking an escape from the current hell that is the date your on. When the chemistry and conversation is right, first dates are exciting, intoxicating and the allure of the unknown forces us to be vulnerable and take chances. Dating can be as terrifying as it is exhilarating and Cave's debut explores these themes with actue realism before taking an ominous turn.
"It's real violence, it's real danger, it's real horror, but there's well placed levity and entertainment."
In a unique twist, the film doesn't roll it's titlecard and opening credits until 30-minutes in. The audience are clued into the fact that Noa's would-be dream guy, Steve is playing a sadistic game as a lucrative butcher in the underground human meat trade with an affinity for 80s pop songs. Sebastian Stan delivers a deviously deranged performance reminiscint of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho (2000). We're treated to an incredibly unsettling montage as Steve dances around his orange carpeted and art-deco home preparing the meat of one of his victims and subscription boxes rife with panties and other personal items for his buyers to the tune of "Obsession" by Animotion.
Speaking on the duality of the film's tone, writer Lauryn Kahn said, "It's real violence, it's real danger, it's real horror, but there's well placed levity and entertainment. I wanted to somehow make a movie that was saying something and scary, but not shuffing it down your throat. I wanted you to be scared and maybe laugh." While discussing the tone of the film, director, Mimi Cave said, "Towing the line of tone was everything for this movie. I really enjoy those movies where you get to experience a range of emotions while viewing it."
Fresh is incredibly visually unnverving with its blood red hues, disorienting camera movements and beautiful cinematography. It lifts the veil into the potential world of modern cannibalism and human beings as a culinary delicacy for the wealthy. It's evocative, uniquely horrifying and infused with light popcorn humor to round out its sharper macabre edges.