Film Review: “Fresh” is a Rom-Com/Thriller Hybrid That is Disgustingly Magnificent

I just saw Fresh and I think I’m going to be a vegetarian from now on. A romantic comedy that becomes a gory thriller after the first act, this anti-popcorn flick debuted at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Picked up for distribution by Searchlight Pictures, it’s the worst food movie ever made… and it’s glorious.

(Courtesy of Sundance Institute/Searchlight Pictures)

(Courtesy of Sundance Institute/Searchlight Pictures)

Tired of an endless string of bad dates, Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) quickly falls head over heels when she meets charismatic cosmetic surgeon Steve (Sebastian Stan). Confiding in her best friend Mollie (Jojo T. Gibbs), Noa feels right about how quickly things are moving with Steve, accepting his invitation to a surprise getaway where their relationship takes a bizarre twist. As stated in the film’s official synopsis, Noa soon learns that Steve is “Hiding some unusual appetites.”

The credits comedically come nearly 40-minutes into the 2-hour runtime, which is also when food becomes an integral part of the story. Not since Soylent Green and Pink Floyd: The Wall has meat looked so unappealing on screen. I’m no doctor, but I recommend taking Fresh on an empty stomach. What Ratatouille did for food, Fresh undoes to the thousandth degree. I may never eat again if I can avoid it.

Despite its gore and tonal shifts, Fresh is actually an exploration of women’s rights that winds up being, dare I say it, fun. It’s disturbing and grotesque, two things I don’t normally seek out. Mimi Cave is careful to not focus so much on horrific moments of dismemberment and instead highlight the detached meat. I kept trying to remind myself that this is just a movie and what I’m seeing is likely not even real animal byproduct at all, but it didn’t really work. My stomach was a churnin’.

Sebastian Stan sheds his Marvel Cinematic Universe heroism for a role I can only describe as insane, but he’s brilliant in it. It’s a meaty role and he really sinks his teeth into it, all puns intended. Daisy Edgar-Jones is delicious as his flavor of the week and its really her show. The character of Noa requires a lot of range and she handles ever scene as if it’s nothing at all, a true pro. Jojo T. Gibbs delivers some of the film’s most repeatable lines, becoming the biggest source of comedic relief, particularly past the point where the film shifts genres.

Directed by Mimi Cave and written by Lauryn Kahn, Fresh delights in setting up typical masculine movie tropes and tear them down. All of the women in the film are smart, merely misled by a sociopath, and you quickly find yourself rooting for them in all situations, whether trying to find a real connection through a dating app or trying to get away from an actual cannibal.

I give Fresh 5 out of 5 stars.