Sundance 2022: 'FRESH' | 'Resurrection' (Reviews)
Public service announcement: please don't take anyone out on first date to see this film, unless you really don't want a second date with them. Director Mimi Cave bursts into the scene with her feature debut called FRESH (yes, stylised in all caps), a rom-com with a lot of salt, pepper and horror to serve your taste buds. In the film, a young woman named Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is having a hard time dating, often sharing this with her friend Mollie (Jojo T. Gibbs). Her luck seems to change once she meets charming Steve (Sebastian Stan) at a produce-section in a local grocery store where they exchange numbers. Following few dates where the two hit it off in a big way, Noa accepts his proposal to spend a weekend with him away from the city and that is where things turn ugly.
One wouldn't dare to go past the title card—that is about 40 minutes in, by the way—in their explanation for this one as that's the exciting part about Lauryn Kahn's intense screenplay. The combined effort of assured direction and a script that isn't afraid to shake up the tempo few times is why the film works so well as it does; how things are framed or expressed through dialogue are constantly coming back to serve the story, making it so satisfying to engage with as a viewer. And if that isn't enough, the superb soundtrack just adds to that song after song because they are informing you about the current tone Cave is going for, which then bleeds into acting.
While there are moments reserved for supporting cast such as Gibbs and Dayo Okeniyi's Paul, (who gets few comedic jabs in), FRESH lives and breathes through Edgar-Jones and Stan who have immense screen chemistry together but can also grab the viewer by themselves. Stan finds a sweet spot between charismatic and unpredictable, even by utilising his voice which he uses to change inflection and rhythm when the story requires it. Edgar-Jones on the other hand communicates much more with her body language while staying on top of it as she doesn't do the easy thing and play it big, even if the movie becomes absurd at times.
Smileys: Soundtrack, Sebastian Stan, screenplay, Daisy Edgar-Jones, directing
Frowneys: Nothing too bad
Hopefully you're able to stomach some gruesome things because Resurrection likewise isn't going to go easy on you. Written and directed by Andrew Semans, this thriller's introduction point is Margaret (Rebecca Hall), a single mom of teenage daughter Abbie (Grace Kaufman) with a successful work career. These things along with Margaret's mental health come under threat after she starts seeing her ex-from-England (played by Tim Roth) lurking around. Through Margaret's perspective, it is implied that she left him after a horrific, tragic event which he now uses to psychologically torture her.
Semans nails the genre and plot setup in the first act pretty flawlessly, never feeling the need to overemphasise everything for the audience. This lays the groundwork for Hall to really go for it in her performance and she is the shining star even when the movie ultimately falters. She navigates Margaret's resurfacing trauma with decisiveness, while getting a fine scene partner in Kaufman; moments that are just between the two actors really dig deep in terms of the emotional impact and uncertainty their characters face.
Meanwhile Roth just seems to be in a completely different movie as he gives a strange, mafioso-esque performance that doesn't give an impression that the two characters would've ever crossed paths before, this being vital for you to ''believe'' Margaret's perspective. Scenes with him also show faults in Semans' writing as the dialogue doesn't hold much water since it is often rather preposterous compared to, say, the dramatic score from Jim Williams and other filmmaking choices. Similarly weak is the film's ending which pretty much disregards the strongest part in the mother-daughter relationship so that it can go overboard on that preposterousness which was never established in the beginning.
Smileys: Rebecca Hall, Grace Kaufman
Frowneys: Tim Roth, dialogue, ending