Fresh is a film that’s got it all: romance, disappointment, the ultimate IRL catfish and, erm, a healthy dose of cannibalism. Mimi Cave’s directorial debut, which premiered at Sundance in January, will be available via Disney+ in the UK from Friday, and it’s as much a cautionary metaphor about the way men treat women’s bodies as it is a riotous horror film that’ll set your teeth on edge.
“[When I read the script], I didn’t know what was coming and it was really fun to experience in real-time the twists and turns it takes you on,” says Daisy Edgar-Jones, who plays the film’s protagonist, Noa – a jaded twenty-something who’s had it up to here with dating subpar guys who make snarky comments about what women look like when they eat.
That’s before Steve (Sebastian Stan) comes into the picture: a charming and amiable plastic surgeon who Noa meets the old fashioned way – i.e. not online – at a supermarket. Their chemistry is electric, and a whirlwind, sexually-charged romance ensues, as the first 30 minutes of Fresh plays out like your typical rom-com. The pair are smitten with each other, but of course, there’s a catch. As Noa’s best friend Mollie (Jojo Gibbs) points out: it’s pretty suspicious that Steve doesn’t have any social media.
Still, Noa isn’t deterred, following Steve on a remote weekend trip out in the sticks. Without spoiling too much, it’s all downhill from there. Steve reveals his appetite for something a little more left-field than your average Deliveroo order, and suddenly, Noa finds herself trapped at the mercy of his cannibalistic whims. What makes it worse is that other women are there, too, each one of them victims of Steve’s sinister enterprise.
“I fell in love with the tone and outrageous nature of the film,” Edgar-Jones continues. “I knew that visually, [Mimi] was going to take it to a whole new place.” For all of Fresh’s dark subject matter, its satirical edge anchors the film, lending humour even to the goriest of moments.
Acting-wise, it marks a pretty significant departure for Edgar-Jones, too, who had her big break playing the lead role of Marianne in the hit adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People in 2020. It’s been all roses for the 23-year-old since then, who will also star in predictably massive film Where The Crawdads Sing this summer. In between the two, Fresh was the perfect rollercoaster indie for Edgar-Jones to sink her teeth into.
“It was so fun to do a genre piece,” she says. “At no point did we sit in the heavy moments for too long – we were allowed to bring levity and humour [into everything], and to be in a very stylised piece was cool, too. It was undeniably Mimi’s vision and I love that feeling of being in someone’s creative world.”
In many ways, Fresh appeals to our worst fears, especially as women (getting duped and kidnapped) and then as human beings (cannibalism – the ultimate taboo). When Steve refers to women’s bodies as meat so literally, it hits close to home. What does Edgar-Jones make of that?
“I think [it] has a deeper meaning, but it’s also one of those films you can watch and enjoy on a surface level,” she says. “Arguably, it’s an allegory for the commodification of female bodies and an exploration of the consumerist nature of how we date now, that it’s as easy as swiping left on a partner like we’re shopping for a handbag.
“[Fresh] also touches on the perils of dating, in that you have to let your guard down while being aware of the risk involved in that. What’s cool is that you’re not hit over the head with that message at any point.” The film offers a great deal of balance in its storytelling, which is what makes it such a compulsive watch. Then again, a warmly-lit Sebastian Stan busting some moves to ’80s power ballads could take the edge off most things.
Amongst all the chaos, Fresh makes a strong case for the power of female friendships, too, especially the one between Noa and Mollie. “When we first meet Noa, she’s quite meek and doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life,” Edgar-Jones says. “Then throughout the film, she finds this inner strength which she perhaps never knew was inside her, but also she really relies on the help of Mollie. I love that it celebrates shared female experience to overcome whatever we need to.”
Right now, the film and TV themes we have most of an appetite for seem to revolve around scams and stolen identities, where people aren’t always who they appear to be (see: The Tinder Swindler, Inventing Anna). In her own way, Noa ignored Steve’s red flags, preferring to dive headfirst into something that she perhaps knew was too good to be true.
“In terms of dating, we project so much onto each other,” Edgar-Jones continues. “We have this preconceived idea of who someone’s going to be, and we want them to be a perfect version of that. It’s a lot of pressure to put on someone… I’m just really curious to see what people will take away from Fresh. It’s a tongue-in-cheek, fun film, and very much its own thing.” Bon appétit.