Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is on one of the worst dates of all time. The guy is pretentious, wears a scarf indoors, asks her to dress more “feminine,” and doesn’t have any money to cover the bill. The way director Mimi Cave enters the audience into the world of Fresh will have them thinking this is a conventional rom-com. Noa confines in her best friend, Millie (Jonica T. Gibbs) about the inefficiencies of dating apps and loses hope of finding that special someone. While at a grocery store, Noa meets Steve in a produce aisle (Sebastian Stan), who checks off the boxes for her. He’s funny, good-looking, caring, and a doctor. They hit it off quickly and decide to go away for a weekend together.
But some things don’t add up. Steve, while charmingly persuasive, doesn’t have any social media accounts, as pointed out by Millie. In 2022, that’s fairly odd, but Noa’s killed a lot of frogs to get to this point. It’s believable she has allowed herself to get so drawn in. Noa and Steve venture off to his secluded, swanky place, but there’s lack of cell service. As Noa relaxes with a drink Steve has prepared for her, she gets a little woozy. It’s then that she realizes his inviting essence is more of a trap. At the 30-minute mark, a title card goes across the screen. First-time director Mimi Cave lulls the audience into an inventive sense of security like Steve, but now it’s time for the main course (pun intended).
When you find out what Steve is really up to, you get a real sense of how far his depravity goes. Noa is not the only one who has gotten entangled in his deceitful web — there are other women inside the sprawling compound with her held captive. Why, this is where the cinematography of Pawel Pogorzelski comes in. Every bite of food within Fresh is shown with such detail that you can almost imagine the way it tastes. From delectable gourmet dishes and cut of steak, the textures have a specific quality to them. It only makes it that much more worth it once you find out where some of these meals are coming from. Cave doesn’t go for overt gore and blood — Fresh takes a less is more approach. There is enough implied harshness throughout the film where it doesn’t need to be a gratuitous slasher to work.
Writer Lauryn Kahn doesn’t strive to keep Noa’s character as a docile, damsel-in distress. Much credit to the acting of Edgar-Jones, despite the danger her character faces, she remains steadfast and clever to beat Steven at his game. There are some parts where things fall short. Millie’s arc is relegated to detective duty, frantically trying to get to the bottom of her friend’s whereabouts — an unfortunate trope seen with Black characters. There’s an underlining story of how the bodies of women are perceived and coveted in society. It would have been great if her character had more to do than just be a sidekick. The overall world of how Steve gets into this lifestyle is kept as a simplistic layer.
However, the chemistry between Edgar-Jones and Shaw is more than enough to keep things moving. At first, you root for Noa and Steve to live happily ever after. By the time Fresh reaches its conclusion, you want Noa to best him in this sick cat-and-mouse game. Steve joins a character archetype of horror psychopaths that will make people think twice about the advances of a stranger with quick wit and a smile.
Photo Credit: Hulu