Chloe Domont’s debut feature follows a toxic couple in this psychological thriller.

In the past years, erotic thrillers just haven’t really hit the mark. Films like Deep Water don’t hit as hard as Basic Instinct or Fatal Attraction. And while Chloe Domont‘s debut feature might not self-define as an erotic thriller (probably leaning a bit more psychological than romantic), Fair Play‘s leads and fiery chemistry lend themselves to the genre more so than any other recent feature. A good thriller will ramp up the anxiety with each step as it hurtles towards its conclusion, and Fair Play does not let up until the very end, offering a twisted and toxic tale of a couple driven to the brink by a shift in power dynamics.

Emily (Phoebe Dynevor) and Luke (Alden Ehrenreich) are madly in love, or at the very least, madly in lust. They have just gotten engaged, and they can’t keep their hands off of each other. Both employees at a cutthroat and competitive financial firm, when the chance for a promotion comes up, Emily and Luke’s relationship changes. Luke asks Emily how she would react if he got the promotion over her, and she remains supportive. Though when the time actually comes it is Emily who gets the job.

The dip in the scales begins to lead to Luke unraveling in jealousy. Accusations fly as he suspects her of doing everything but her job to get the promotion, despite the fact that she clearly has a knack and an instinct for her job. As she tries to keep hold of her relationship with Luke, trying to get him a promotion, trying to keep the fire alive, the relationship slowly deteriorates. Cutting each other down, Domont expertly crafts a story that shows the cannibalistic nature of a relationship.

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Fair Play wouldn’t be half as good without the strength of its leads. Dynevor, known best for her role as Daphne Bridgerton in the Netflix show based on a romance novel series, Bridgerton, stretches her talent to the full extent. While she’s charming as the new Duchess of Hastings, Daphne is no match for Emily. She’s flirtatious, sexual, ambitious, sharp, and completely ruthless. Dynevor balances the character who must be both soft and sensual while also stepping into the role of being “one of the guys”.

On the flip side, Ehrenreich, most prominently known for his role as the young Han Solo in the divisive Solo: A Star Wars Story, leans away from playing a virtuous hero or irresistible rogue. Instead, Luke is a complex figure. When we first meet him, he’s all too happy to please Emily and seems eager to get to the part where they are married. However, without the bolstering of a promotion, we watch the shine of his character slowly fade away, leaving a desperate and grasping man, capable of cruelty and violence. His chemistry with Dynevor is explosive, from intimate scenes between the two of them at the height of their relationship to the destructive arguments between the two when they get off of work, the relationship is a disaster, and we just can’t look away.

Domont’s script is all hard edges and claws, the pernicious allure of power slowly eating its way through everything. She cleverly bookends the film in a perfect mirroring scene involving blood and tackles complicated and controversial conversations between men and women with effortless ease. Fair Play offers not a redemption for both Dynevor and Ehrenreich, but instead an opportunity to flex their theatrical muscles playing these two caustic people. If this is the first entry from Domont, who has a firm grasp on how to compose a worthy thriller, I can’t wait to see what comes next for her.

Rating: A

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