By George Bate & Josh Reilly B.
Fair Play, a psychological thriller from writer/director Chloe Domont in her directorial debut, recently debuted on Netflix. This was after the film’s stunning reception at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, which sparked a bidding war among various heavy-hitters in the movie industry. Oftentimes, festival films generate buzz that inaccurately hypes a film up, establishing unrealistic expectations of a film’s quality until it debuts to a wider audience to disappointment and middling reception. This is not the case, however, with Fair Play, which proves to be one of the year’s most compelling films.
Fair Play follows Emily (played by Bridgerton’s Phoebe Dynevor) and Luke (played by Solo: A Star Wars Story’s Alden Ehrenreich). Emily and Luke are in a secret romantic relationship while also working for a cutthroat Manhattan hedge fund. The passionate and loving relationship begins to go awry, however, when one of the partner’s receives an unexpected promotion.
With Fair Play, Chloe Domont confidently crafts a thrilling and conscientious film that should most definitely spark a substantive career in the film industry. Domont’s film shines as an extremely contemporary and relevant tale with the sensibilities and tension of a 90s erotic thriller, making it enticingly and simultaneously retro and modern. In a sense, imagine the intensity of a Fatal Attraction or Basic Instinct fused together with strands of Wall Street packed in with razor-sharp gender commentary along the lines of Promising Young Woman and you’ve got Fair Play.
Going into the film with little-to-no knowledge of what it’s about allows for an experience that unfolds in decidedly unpredictable ways. Domont keeps the audience on their toes as the film’s initial act takes twists and turns before settling into a narrative rich in tension, sex, backstabbing, and gender politics. Seemingly not a single second of the 113 minute runtime is wasted given a sharp script from Domont that never ceases to compel.
Elevating the proceedings even further are extraordinary lead performances from Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich. In many ways, the film is an intricate examination of their characters’ relationship, a once beautiful bond fractured by greed and misogyny. Given this, the impact of Fair Play relies heavily on Dynevor and Ehrenreich, both to sell the characters’ initial passion and realistically depict the different, nuanced ways in which trust is broken and discomfort emerges. Both actors deliver superb performances here and prove yet again that they are some of the industry’s most compelling young actors.
On the less positive side of things, Fair Play eventually becomes a little too predictable. The contemporary social commentary previously handled with some nuance becomes more heavy-handed as the film progresses, while the plot stutters to a somewhat flat conclusion. It never ceases to entertain, but nonetheless needed more dramatic heft to round out its third act.
Fair Play is a razor-sharp psychological drama that fuses contemporary gender commentary with 90s erotic thriller sensibilities. Anchored by a tight and enthralling screenplay, director Chloe Domont, in her directorial debut, crafts a film with twists and turns that intricately examines the fragmentation of a relationship. This wouldn’t work without a pair of suiting performances and, thankfully, Fair Play excels in this regard with stellar turns from Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich. A third act that loses momentum, becomes too predictable, and stutters to a somewhat flat ending slightly dampens upon the proceedings, but, without a doubt, Fair Play is one of the best films of the year.