Mimi Cave’s Fresh begins on a relatively standard note. Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) has difficulty dating and finding suitable matches through an app. One date during the beginning of the film ends wrong with the two insulting one another, which exacerbates Noa’s general distaste towards men. She confides in her best friend Mollie (Jonica T. Gibbs), encouraging her to find suitable men. That’ll happen relatively quickly when she meets a charming, rather handsome man named Steve (Sebastian Stan) at the supermarket, fast flirting with her and sharing his Cotton Candy Grapes. They exchange numbers and immediately fall in love, even if Noa knows nothing about him. Against the advice of Mollie, she goes on a trip with Steve to his house, to which he drugs Noa and chains her to a bed. I should keep the rest of the movie under wraps since it’s best to know as little as possible about it to truly enjoy it (plus the trailers do a good job at hiding what the movie is about too).
To talk about the film without spoiling is a tricky feat, but the “real movie” starts after the opening credits sequence, which occurs at a whopping 32 minutes after the film has begun. It still doesn’t beat Sion Sono’s four-hour epic Love Exposure, whose opening credits happen at the one-hour mark, but it’s an inventive way to signal the audience that the first act of the film was a “prologue,” and that subsequent acts will talk about the real story at hand. And Fresh not only changes in tone but in quality too. The first act is too standard (and predictable) for its own good, even at developing the most formal relationship possible. Jonica T. Gibbs’ character immediately recalls Lil Rel Howery in Jordan Peele’s Get Out, and that comparison will exacerbate itself even more during its second act.
In retrospect, the movie seems to borrow heavily from Peele’s film, albeit twisting up the character arcs, so they aren’t too similar to Get Out. But you can’t help but feel certain familiarities plaguing the script, especially with Stan and Edgar-Jones’ relationship heavily reminding us of Allison Williams and Daniel Kaluuya in Jordan Peele’s movie, even if the two stories are vastly different. And even if there are some familiar beats in Fresh, its main two elements sell the film entirely and transform a formulaic script into an inventive and, dare I say, fresh (ha! I had to do it, it was too good) horror-comedy.
Firstly, its performances are incredible. Sebastian Stan gives one of the best roles of his career as Steve. The less you know about him, the better, but let’s say he’s both infectiously charming and devilishly twisted. I’ll leave it at that. He also shares terrific chemistry with Daisy Edgar-Jones, who completely owns the screen in many of the movie’s most shocking (and surprising) moments. Screenwriter Lauryn Kahn goes into places we never think the film will go and yet keeps catching the audience off guard at every single turn.
This, coupled with its unparalleled technical craftsmanship, makes the movie a must-see. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a cinematographer in complete sync with his editor, but Martin Pensa (who has worked with the late Jean-Marc Vallée for Dallas Buyers Club and Wild)’s sharp editing techniques, alongside Pawel Pogorzelski’s patient cinematography, makes for some genuinely staggering visual moments. The transitions are flawless and brimming with creativity, while its parallel cuts bring us closer to Noa’s relationship with Steve than we ever thought possible. Of course, some visual cues don’t always work, but most of them do and provide another element to make the film memorable.
If you go into Fresh by only watching the trailer and reading absolutely NO REVIEWS (even min—hey, what are you doing here if you haven’t seen the film? Watch it!), you’re going to have a great experience unraveling the film’s central twist. The promotional material slightly teases it to give you a reason to turn on Hulu (or Disney+) and press play. Even better, if you haven’t seen the trailer, don’t do it. Instead, go in completely blind, and enjoy a deliciously twisted horror-comedy featuring Sebastian Stan at the best he’s been since 2017’s I, Tonya, and an electrifying performance from Daisy Edgar-Jones to solidify the film’s core. You won’t regret it.
Fresh is now streaming on Hulu in the United States and on Disney+ internationally.