Sundance 2023: ‘Fair Play’ Review
The following is part of Full Circle Cinema’s coverage of Sundance 2023.
Fair Play, a directorial debut film for Chloe Domont is a strong film that revolves around two hedge fund employees. At the office, Emily (Phoebe Dynevor) and Luke (Alden Ehrenreich) work together as analysts. In their off hours – what few there may be – they spend the time building their intimate relationship. When one of them gets promoted soon after their engagement, things start to unravel as one gives the other grief.
Emily’s outnumbered at work as the lone female working at the hedge fund in Fair Play. As someone who works in a male-dominated industry, I related to her character and the choices she made. She’s a woman drowning in the face she has to put on for her job, to make sure people do not interpret her the wrong way. She’s dealing with imposter syndrome with the back and forth of her relationship, and the power dynamic seesawing within the story is captivating.
Dynevor works the part brilliantly and captures the discomfort she feels at work. She pulls off the instability in her relationship with Luke to a tee, battling between wanting to pick up the pieces of her relationship and wondering where everything went wrong. Ehrenreich, meanwhile, captures the psychopathic tendencies of Luke to the extreme. His character is responsible for the majority of the pacing in the film, and his performance definitely kept me on my toes.
Domont chooses to illustrate the sexism encompassing the workplace and homes in Fair Play. While Luke and Emily are barely engaged, Luke’s emotions soon derail their relationship. There’s not one side the script wants you to pick, almost insisting the neutrality. This gets a boost thanks to Menno Mans’ cinematography, often leaning on clean, solo center shots to make you feel for the main characters. It’s convoluted, but so is the day-to-day world. Domont forces one to make the consideration, and it can leave you spinning… in a good way.
In terms of the script, it balances everything well. In the span of a week, so much happens. And yet, it feels as if no time has passed at all. Costuming is simple, though sometimes a character’s look doesn’t flow properly between shots. And I definitely appreciate the fact that Emily takes charge of her sex life. The settings swap between the office and Emily and Luke’s apartment in Queens, and this helps narrow the focus on the characters.
Fair Play embraces a theme of “pride comes before a fall”, with a fragile, sexist male ego to blame. Dynevor and Ehrenreich shine as the leads and capture the explosive failings of their characters’ relationship so well. With all parts of an emotional spectrum involved, the highs and lows of the relationship, and hedge fund gambling can keep you guessing the entire course of the film. Domont shines as the director and writer, making the dual role look easy. She brought a ton of passion into the film and it shows. – Katie Rentschler
Fair Play will premiere on Netflix in 2023.