Review: Get a Taste for Modern Dating in Fun, Clever and Slick Thriller Fresh

It’s entirely possible you don’t know who Sebastian Stan is (yet). If you’re not enmeshed in the world of all things Marvel; if you missed the recent “Pam & Tommy” miniseries; if you skipped the Margo Robbie vehicle I, Tonya (in which he co-starred), there’s a very real chance Stan hasn’t crossed your radar. Yet the actor has racked up a respectable list of credits in recent years, making him more and more recognizable and more and more (deservedly) in demand. For those of us who have been watching his screen time increase and billing placement improve with each new role, seeing this talented and charismatic actor take the lead in something as (forgive me) biting as Fresh is a real treat. Stan stars as Steve, a sweet-talking surgeon with a very dark secret who seduces a young woman and discovers that he’s in a bit over his head with her.

Daisy Edgar-Jones (Normal People) is Noa, a single 20-something who’s out running errands when she meets Steve in the produce section. It’s as cliche as movie meet-cutes get, but it works, and these two are so attractive and so entrancing that it’s easy to believe how immediate and intimate their connection is. Mimi Cave directs Lauryn Kahn’s script with a skill at blending its several tones; what starts as an unassuming romcom morphs into a dark thriller that eventually turns into something that can’t take itself all too seriously (and neither should we). It all works, however, and if the film’s worst sin is that its themes and character development are only skin deep, well…there’s still an awful lot here to enjoy.

One of the best parts about a thriller is its ability to build a world and commit to its premise, and Fresh does both very well. From the production design on Steve’s lair, where Noa is eventually held prisoner after Steve’s true intentions come to light, to the economy of flesh the script introduces us to with just enough detail to make it skeevy, it all nods to an attention to detail that allows an audience to slip out of reality for a couple hours and just be entertained. Noa is living every woman’s worst nightmare, and from beginning to end we’re with her at every terrifying step, rooting her on and eager to see her give Steve what’s coming to him. Kahn cleverly builds in a few subplots (that I won’t spoil here) that keep the proceedings interesting and horrifying, not the least of which is the extent of Steve’s double life. That thread alone pays off in dividends in the film’s final moments, and while some might see these twists and turns coming, it’s nevertheless a fun ride while you’re on it.

Fresh certainly has aspirations to be something it is not. There’s a concerted effort to have something to say about modern dating, the perils of swiping and the challenge of making any real connection in the age of social media-based personalities. Noa’s best friend, Mollie (Jojo T. Gibbs), makes a great wingwoman, looking out for her girl both in the early days of this new dalliance and once Noa goes missing. The script incorporates contemporary technology and connectivity in smart and realistic ways, all of it helping to sell the film’s more outlandish moments. In the end, Fresh provides a perfectly enjoyable night at the movies; there’s nothing particularly substantive here, but with a dashing leading man and a bright young woman at its center and a healthy dose of suspense, gore and lightheartedness, there’s enough to make it worth seeking out.

Fresh is now streaming on Hulu.

Lisa Trifone
Lisa Trifone
Plan Your Life with 3CR Highlights

Join Our Newsletter today!