Film Pick of the Week: Fair Play - review by Yvette Huddleston
Writer-director Chloe Domont’s debut feature film is a slick battle of the sexes drama that gradually moves into psychological thriller territory.
The narrative is cleverly structured to lull the viewer into a false sense of security – the opening section almost plays like a romcom. We meet young couple Emily (Phoebe Dynevor) and Luke (Alden Ehrenreich) who both work in high finance as analysts for the same Wall Street hedge fund. Because of strict workplace rules, they have had to keep their relationship secret even though they live together and are now, after Luke’s clumsy, but genuine proposal – which takes place in a public toilet (don’t ask) – engaged to be married.
Leaving her engagement ring at home, the next day Emily heads off to work, as does Luke, deliberately travelling and arriving at work separately. A vacancy comes up in a senior position and Emily overhears gossip which seems to suggest that Luke is in the running for the job. She is delighted for him and tells him what she has heard. In the event, however, it is Emily who is offered the post by their chief executive Campbell (Eddie Marsan). Luke says he is proud of her but inwardly the fact that she is now effectively his boss starts to eat away at him.
The powerplay in their personal relationship is affected by what is happening at work and vice versa. Emily does her best to make Luke feel valued in both the domestic and workplace spheres, to the point where she is on the verge of compromising her own professional standards – and his response is to become increasingly sullen and withdrawn. It is clear the relationship is in trouble and they begin to drift apart.
The script addresses the level of misogyny that is still rife in the world of finance – the gossip around the office among their male colleagues, which Luke picks up on, is that Emily could only have been promoted to the position she is in because she slept with Campbell. Worse comments follow.
Without giving too much away, events take a very dark turn as Luke’s resentment grows. The performances from Dynevor and Ehrenreich are both excellent – there is a great sparky chemistry between them which enlivens the early scenes and Ehrenreich portrays his character’s narrative arc very skilfully. It is a twisty, compelling watch, expertly handled by Domont who keeps the pace sprightly and the tension high.