'Fresh' review: Comic thriller has a bone to pick with modern dating
Sebastian Stan plays a handsome, charming guy with a pretty nasty secret in director Mimi Cave's feature film debut.
Noa is sick of the meat grinder of the modern dating world.
She gets much more than she bargained for in "Fresh," a darkly comic thriller that manages to be downright charming even as it develops an appetite for human flesh.
British actress Daisy Edgar-Jones ("Normal People") is Noa, who is stuck swiping right on dating apps and is tired of ending up on dead end dates, like the one that opens the film where her companion takes off with her leftovers after making her split the check.
She meets Steve (Sebastian Stan) in a grocery store and the two hit it off over a couple of sampled cotton candy grapes. Steve's not like the other schmoes she's used to meeting online. He's handsome, charming, he listens and he's a reconstructive surgeon. By any measure, he's a catch.
Alas, he's also a cannibal — it's always something, isn't it? — and Noa ends up in chains in his basement, where he'll slowly slice her and sell her as meat to his rich clients for $30,000 a plate. (Isn't dating the worst?) Steve may be a complete sicko, but he's not immune to Noa's charms, and she goes into survival mode and attempts to use her wiles to free herself from his clutches.
Written by Lauryn Kahn and directed by Mimi Cave, "Fresh" puts a smart, forward-thinking spin on the modern captive thriller, and is dazzling in its set-up, a 33-minute pre-credits sequence that establishes its two main characters and their relationship before turning everything on its ear. Cave wades into unsettling waters, but her presentation of the material is so confident and tonally mature that "Fresh" is never about cheap thrills. It's about self-perseverance.
And yet, once it gets where it's going it plays out in such a straightforward manner that you wish it had another ace or two up its sleeve. No matter. "Fresh" is a reminder to everyone fed up with the horrors of modern dating that things could be much, much worse.
Rated R: for strong and disturbing violent content, some bloody images, language throughout, some sexual content and brief graphic nudity
Running time: 114 minutes