When discussing ‘Fresh’, the new film by director Mimi Cave and writer Lauryn Kahn, is it important to establish how versatile it is. This is the rare film where the adjectives, ‘fun, gory, disturbing, charming, amusing, and clever’ all apply with equal accuracy. The voracity of the whirling narrative, including placing the opening credits well within the second act, is so dizzying and enjoyable it is easy to forget the dark thematic undertones.
This film dashes through the themes of human trafficking, sexual assault, and vegetarianism and manages to never feel overly heavy or full of despair. It is the rare narrative that powerfully delivers on the above themes without collapsing under the weight of them. It entertains, it subverts, but it never pulls a punch.
Honestly, one may not feel the entirety of the message until the credits roll. The film is so well paced, so well constructed, the story so skillfully told, that heft of the underlying ideas isn’t fully appreciated until the film marinates in the viewer’s mind.
And this is the potential power of film and stories. To introduce ideas through pure empathy, to present characters that are so well crafted, to weave a narrative that never slows long enough to become overly expositional; this is what Cave and Kahn do so well here.
They tell a story that compels, that relates, that skirts the darkness enough to keep an audience engaged.
But the darkness is there.
It is not just there, it is underlined with surprising veracity. It makes clear the dangers of being a woman in a patriarchal, sexist, and objectifying culture.
They are literally meat.
This is presented with such care and empathic storytelling that those who don’t share the protagonist’s role in society will understand, they will see how terrifying it is.
And, again, this is what art is for. To allow us to see outside of ourself, our view.
Sometimes this fails, and the narrative becomes a lecture. It speaks at a viewer, it never engages with them.
Fresh, however, is the antithesis of that. It is all empathy, it is all shared experience.
While the film is exaggerated, while it dashes through the patriarchal message with a fast-paced, horrific plot, it is at its core a communal and relatable story.
And that is the most impressive feat a storyteller could ever hope for.
SUNDANCE 2022 REVIEW: ‘Fresh’ Serves Us a Dish of Patriarchy