What begins as a seductively sensual erotic thriller slowly becomes a brutal and gripping story of fractured egos in Fair Play, writer-director Chloe Domont’s feature debut. Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich deliver stunning performances as Emily and Luke, a power couple whose professional ambitions inevitably clash with their personal relationship.
Using cringe as its weapon of choice, writer-director Chloe Domont’s slinky and slick feature debut tosses a young couple into a raging storm of sexual manipulation, workplace politics, and the destructive nature of male ego. This ruthless, gratifying thriller makes the most of its two committed leads, with Phoebe Dynevor (TV’s Bridgerton) and Alden Ehrenreich (Solo: A Star Wars Story) delivering gripping performances that embody their characters fully.
With an opening sequence that combines menstrual blood, an attempted act of intimacy in a bathroom, and a wedding ring, Fair Play seduces its viewers into a world of steamy sensuality and thorny intrigue. But once its lustrous pacing has gotten the audience in its clutches, the movie begins to erupt in a torrent of rage and toxicity.
The ensuing confrontation between Luke and Emily is brutal, unsettling, and utterly believable. Fair Play is a riveting drama that examines the toxic power dynamic between partners and questions why work and romance continue to be considered mutually exclusive.
Even as Fair Play missteps into erotic thriller tropes, it remains one of this year’s more incisive relationship dramas. And that’s all thanks to its awe-inducing performances from Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich. The former, coming off a breakout turn in TV’s Bridgerton, gives one of her most promising career turns as Emily, while the latter brings an edginess to his performance that shows why he was seen as such a big star prospect before his career was derailed by the doomed Han Solo movie.
Domont doesn’t hide behind sex to explore the power-trips that drive these characters, whether in upscale bars or Luke’s dingy office. She also doesn’t shy away from showing how easily these power trips can spiral into the destructive. And when Luke cocks his head and clicks his tongue seconds before launching an insult, the moment cuts like a knife. It’s a vivisection of male insecurity and gaslighting that few vumoo movies have had the courage to do.
Few modern Hollywood thrillers capture the underlying reasons relationships implode as well as Fair Play. This razor-sharp corporate drama starring Bridgerton breakout Phoebe Dynevor and Solo breakout Alden Ehrenreich is all about the little slights, misinterpretations, and insecurities that add up to deadly damage over time.
Chloe Domont, who has directed episodes of Billions and has a solid track record in television, delivers an expertly written screenplay here that interrogates gender dynamics and toxic power structures. She elicits gripping performances from both her leads.
Dynevor carries the film on her shoulders with her fearless commitment and palpable chemistry with Ehrenreich. She shows off her talents as a badass in a man’s world while showing how her character’s toxicity feeds into the toxicity of their relationship. Ehrenreich is a cunning actor given an interesting role to chew on. He portrays Luke as someone unable to reconcile his genuine support for Emily with his own lingering sense of entitlement.
Director Chloe Domont has a firm handle on high-stakes finance gamesmanship, but her film’s most potent and incisive moments come when it examines the intersections of gender, ego, and power. Rather than reverting to the misogyny of many a thriller, Domont turns the biggest threat in Fair Play into a man’s ego.
With the help of fearless performances from Dynevor and Ehrenreich (who’s still squeezing out every drop of juice from his doomed Han Solo career), Fair Play works as a twisty, intense tale of a vicious cycle. Domont’s no-holds-barred attack on ambition, attraction, and masculinity is a bomb laced with the explosive duality of Dynevor and Ehrenreich’s chemistry.
Though it veers into overcooking territory in its final act, Fair Play’s roiled tension and unflinchingly honest look at enduring conflicts is a film worth watching. If nothing else, its gut-punching conclusion has audiences talking since its Sundance debut. And that might be Diamond’s greatest achievement.