When I tell you that you’re not ready for ‘Fresh‘, I don’t just mean the moment it pulls back its curtains to reveal its true nature leaving you wide-eyed and breathless. I also don’t mean the last 30 minutes, where I though my heart might actually escape through my mouth and run out of the room. It’s the moments where director Mimi Cave slams us out of our genre comfort zone, throwing our expectations on their heads, and confronting us directly through the eyes of her cast smashing through the fourth wall. The absolute dread she induces by just having a steady hand on the edits. The sheer desperation she squeezes out of every moment.
By the time you see the credits, one thing is incredibly clear: Mimi Cave is the freshest (sorry) new horror director in town.
All you should know about ‘Fresh‘ is that it’s about a girl meeting a guy, trying to make her way through an utterly exhausting series of terrible dates. Now, of course, that isn’t what ‘Fresh‘ is really about, but that’s all you should allow yourself to know. It’s just been released on Disney + (via their Stars integration of Fox Searchlight films), but don’t let its 60s-style wavy title font on Disney+ fool you into thinking it’s a fun, kooky thing. Far from it. ‘Fresh‘ has teeth – teeth – and if you’re as much a fan of this genre as I am, it offers a valuable opportunity to watch a story that dares to play with the usual tropes.
Side note one: it’s so good to see Sebastian Stan in something that isn’t the MCU. Honestly, I find Bucky/The Winter Soldier such a boring character that it’s hard to not attach that to the actor, but between ‘Fresh‘ and “Pam And Tommy‘ it’s clear that he’s got one hell of a range. And most of it on display in ‘Fresh’.
Side note two: Daisy Edgar-Jones is incredible. The journey that her character goes through in ‘Fresh‘ asks an unbelievable amount from her as an actor, and she more than delivers. She can go from panic, to fear, to resilience without any obvious edges. Her eyes could stop traffic. If you haven’t seen her in the fantastic reboot series of ‘War Of The Wolds‘, please, please make that the next thing you watch.
Stan and Edgar-Jones make fantastic leads and have tremendous chemistry, heading up an equally great supporting cast, and you get the real sense that much of their performance comes directly from Cave. There are moments where the camera sits passively on Edgar-Jones as she processes some new hell, not giving any respite to the viewers by cutting away, and Stan’s dancing charcuterie preparation is an instant gut-wrenching classic. The whole film feels like a vision, a distinct voice of a creator, one that is clearly aware of the power of film. The aforementioned fourth-wall breaking is done carefully and with restraint, not as a gimmick but more a slam directly into the eyes staring back. It really helps too, with our understanding of the characters in the moment; we see them for what they are, and for what they are about to do.
The whole film is full of details and moments that, frankly, would not have been there with a male director. There’s an authenticity to the relationships that neatly avoids the usual cliches, and the horror of the situation is shown so perfectly by Edgar-Jones that it’s hard not to be on her side, even when she has to start making some seriously difficult choices to survive. Cave frame everything beautifully and uses subtle camera effects to convey changing states, giving each scene its time to unfold without gratuitous extras.
It’s such a confident display of filmmaking that it’s hard to believe this is Cave’s first feature (after her rich background in music videos and shorts). ‘Fresh‘ should give her the same buzz as Jordon Peele had after ‘Get Out‘, and it will make you incredibly excited for what she might make next. Whatever it turns out to be, it’s sure to be another story that sticks on your palette long after the last bite.
‘Fresh’ is now available to stream on Disney +.