Directed by: Chloe Domont
Premise: Emily and Luke (Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich) work at a hedge fund and are secretly engaged in violation of company policy. When Emily is promoted and becomes Luke’s supervisor, tensions in their personal life spill over into their work duties.
What Works: Fair Play mixes a relationship story with a workplace drama. On the outset it’s a tale of two people working as a team in an attempt to outfox the corporate establishment. Emily and Luke are young and ambitious professionals in love but the course of the story suggests that human relationships and unappeased male insecurity will not survive this environment. When Emily is promoted, Luke begins to tailspin and Fair Play dramatizes the way in which professional ambitions can hijack a relationship. The film cuts a bit deeper than that. Luke’s resentment of his fiancé has dark implications for relationships between men and women. The hedge fund is depicted as a cutthroat and masculine workplace and Emily’s success over Luke jeopardizes this man’s sense of self and dignity. The filmmaking is quite effective. The office scenes have a clean and sterile look while the domestic locations have an organic style; these visuals start to bleed into one another as Emily and Luke’s personal and professional spheres start merging. The cinematography uses tight framing to trap Emily and Luke within the image and the camerawork and editing become increasingly erratic as the relationship starts to unravel. Phoebe Dynevor is excellent as Emily. We can see how she is caught between her ambitions and her investment in her fiancé and Luke’s antagonistic behavior makes her situation increasingly untenable. Luke is a terrible person and Alden Ehrenreich throws himself into the role.
What Doesn’t: Fair Play is a story of a relationship falling apart but the blame for that failure is one-sided. Luke begins acting insecure almost immediately upon Emily receiving her promotion and he continues behaving in ways that are petty, chauvinistic, and unattractive. Emily has a few moments in which she acts out but she mostly takes on the role of propping up the relationship. The imbalance of failure and responsibility makes the conflict a little less interesting than it would be if it slid into animosity more gradually and if the character flaws were more evenly shared. The imbalance in responsibility undermines the credibility of the premise. Luke reveals himself to be such a whinny little cretin that it’s hard to believe Emily would have fallen for him in the first place.
Disc extras: Available on Netflix.
Bottom Line: How viewers feel about Fair Play may depend on their opinions about the nature of relationships between men and women. It would be a stronger and more interesting film if it were more nuanced. As it is, Fair Play is brutal and attentive viewers will have to wrestle with the film’s implications.
Episode: #981 (January 21, 2024)