Even after a particularly bad Tinder date, twenty-something singleton Noa (Edgar-Jones) is not willing to listen to her best friend Mollie (Jojo T. Jones) when she says, “You do not need a man.” She’s looking for love, and seems to have found it, in, of all places, in the produce-section of the local supermarket.
She meets cute with Steve (Stan), a handsome, funny cosmetic surgeon, who charms her into giving her his phone number, and then says, “I’m not going to text you… but I’ll really want to.”
Nonetheless, they arrange a date, and things get hot ‘n heavy “somewhere between the second and third drink.” They spark and wind up back at her place. The next day, after a meal and a dance, he says, “We should go somewhere. Somewhere nice. Maybe it will be a surprise.”
Noa, hungry for love, agrees to the weekend getaway, only to learn of her new boyfriend’s sick, deadly secret.
“Fresh” is darkly comedic and stomach churningly grim. It’s a Midnight Movie unafraid to take its deadly dating metaphor to bloody extremes. The first thirty minutes play out as a romance but when the title credit pops up on screen it brings with it a dark tone—and an unpleasant interpretation of what the name actually means—that lingers until the intense final scene. It breathes the same air as “Promising Young Woman” in its mix of modern allegory and horror, but when the going gets gruesome, it stands on its own.
Director Mimi Cave, working from a script by Lauryn Kahn, weaves social commentary about the commodification of women and modern-day dating into the story. It’s bold storytelling bolstered by a relatable performance from Edgar-Jones that fits like a puzzle piece with Stan’s weirdly chipper oddball character. As Steve, he is suave and sadistic, in what may be his meatiest role to date. In an odd way, given the machinations of the story, they have great chemistry.
“Fresh” is stylishly directed, with strong performances, but feels too leisurely in its approach. Cave spends time setting up the romance (and what comes after BUT NO SPOILERS HERE) but doesn’t afford the same luxury to the characters. If we knew more about Noa, Steve and Mollie the stakes, already high, would be much higher. Still, even though “Fresh” goes on too long, it manages to find a satisfyingly squeamish and memorable way to put a period on the story for patient viewers.