I first stumbled upon word of this movie on the chaotic social wastelands that is Tumblr. I quickly scurried around to find the nearest person to me with a Disney Plus account and sat down to watch.

Written by Lauryn Kahn and directed by Mimi Cave, Fresh, released in 2022, starts out showing what I know all too well, and that is the depressing hellscape that is modern dating for women. Our main character Noa, played by Daisy Edgar-Jones is bombarded with dick pics and disrespect, and its a depressing assault on the senses that mostly just pushes women to stop trying altogether. However Noa is alone, with no siblings or father, and a mother who is alive, but the relationship is so destroyed they no longer speak. So its understandable that Noa continues to subject herself to the wastelands of tinder, trying to find a soul to squeeze. Noa does have one shining light in her life, and that is her best friend Mollie, played by Jonica T Gibbs. Noa and Mollie have the kind of best friendship and sisterhood that is evident in quick bursts of intimacy and a deep knowing of each other that is displayed simply yet effectively in the start of this film.

This picture gets better the more I look at it

So what is Fresh about? Well, its a horror. Let me say that straight up. And to be honest, at times, I wasn’t sure if I could make it to the end. It wasn’t because of any gratuitous gore, because it doesn’t have that. It’s that the topic is truly terrifying and at times, the suspense had me cuddling whatever soft plushy I could reach in my terror. I think this speaks to the effectiveness of the writing, with the story weaving in and out at times to let you breath again, but you are always on edge.

So back to the plot, Noa actually has a meet cute at the grocery store! Yay! Meeting someone in person! Don’t we all miss that? And her new beau is charming and sweet, and has no social media. Red flag am I right? Well the red flags continue and I don’t want to spoil the film in this review because this one you have to watch. But if you really must have the plot and ending ruined keep reading below.

Finally! She met a guy in person! Thats way better, right?

Noa’s new love interest is a cannibal. And he kidnaps Noa, chaining her to the floor in a concrete room in his luxurious house, where he stocks up on vulnerable women to carve up and kill and send their flesh to his cannibal community for a lot of money. With the internet and dating how it is, this scenario felt truly terrifying and scarily plausible.

The only person in the world who knows where Noa is, is Mollie, and the cannibal man has Noa’s phone and is texting Mollie, pretending to be Noa. If it weren’t for Mollie and Noa’s intimate habit of alternating goodbyes with I love YOU MORE, then Mollie wouldn’t have been tipped off that something was wrong. I love that this film had woven such a delicate tapestry that only such a close relationship would notice. Mollie also doesn’t bother with the police and this is an interesting move that I assume is a mixture of the fact Mollie is black, and also how the police generally are anyway when it comes to women in danger.

Mollie does end up finding the cannibal’s family home, and I will admit as a viewer, I immediately thought ofcourse, he has the nuclear family unit as a front to cover his crimes, his poor wife! But I was disabused of such small minded notions quickly as it turns out Mollie is then taken when both the cannibal and his wife trap her and take her down. Having the cannibal’s wife in on it was disturbing, but when you are shown that she too is missing a leg, it is clear that she too is a victim of the cannibal’s actions.

What is special about this film is its commentary on femininity and how it is a survival tactic. Femininity is shown to be Noa’s only weapon in this harrowing situation, and I can’t help but consider what that says about the world at large. Are women feminine in our society in order to survive? Yes.

I also thought about how as women we turn to numbing ourselves in order to get through. If each brutal murder of women and girls was felt in its entirety, if it really sank into our souls just what is happening around us each week and each day I don’t think we would get out bed. Noa is also forced to numb her true feelings in order to woo her attacker and hope for a chance at survival.

The ending of Fresh is intense. I oscillated between shouting laughter and teddy gripping. It is a struggle to the end but I can say that our dear Noa is victorious. Not only does she escape, but she saves Mollie and the other captive woman Penny, played by Andrea Bang. The cannibal is nearly super human in what he endures, making the final fight scene very tense and suspenseful.

Honestly if Noa and Mollie didn’t make it out alive I wouldn’t be recommending you watch this movie.

But they do and it’s glorious. There is one final hurdle to overcome and its the cannibal’s wife. Once again we are tricked, not really knowing how she feels. The wife, Ann, played by Charlotte Le Bon, doesn’t give anything away in her facial expressions, and we are still left stumped by her and what she feels when she comes upon her husbands dead body. She then says to put his body on ice, which means she is happy to continue his work.

Noa has a final confrontation with Ann and Ann pretends she is an escaped woman too, that is until she puts her hands around Noa’s neck and tries to choke her to death. Mollie saves the day and its with a calling out of “I asked you for help!” and “Bitches like you are the F*%*ing problem!”

Having Ann represent the stepford wife and anti-woman woman is a stroke of genius and makes me want to know a lot more about Lauryn Kahn. Who is this amazing woman who not only grasps the horizontal violence of oppressed groups, but also manages to incorporate feminist theory into a terrifying yet humorous thriller of a film. The ending made me laugh so hard, as Noa is left wondering who Ann is and Mollie has to explain, that is the cannibal’s wife. It’s a tinder horror story we all know too well, encapsulated and escalated to the extreme.

Fresh is a clever play on words, not only for the dating market connotations like fresh meat, and the cannibal connotations like fresh food, but this movie is also fresh because it’s telling the story of women, by women, directed by women, and for women. And in the end, we save ourselves.

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