Fair Play is a Promising Debut Feature from Chloe Domont

Kyle Smart ‘26 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Small budget drama-thrillers are few and far between these days, especially as massive franchises prevail over the film industry. As a debut feature premiering at the Sundance Film Festival with no distributor initially attached, Fair Play, written and directed by Chloe Domont, had a huge uphill battle to climb in order to break through the cultural zeitgeist. But the film, which stars Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich, was a huge critical hit out of the festival, leading Netflix to buy the film’s distribution rights for $20 million. It began streaming on October 6.

The film follows 20-something-year-old colleagues Emily (Dynevor) and Luke (Ehrenreich), who are in a romantic relationship that they keep secret from the rest of the workplace where in-office relationships aren’t allowed. Emily receives a promotion that Luke thinks he deserved, and this promotion turns Emily into Luke’s boss, complicating their relationship and setting both on the edge. 

The film starts as a fairly generic erotic thriller (think, Basic Instinct, Cruel Intentions, and Gone Girl), and every trope you could think of from that description is present in the first 75% of this film. The final fourth of the film is where it surpasses the genre and truly becomes an engrossing thriller focused on these two characters.The film relies on the performances and screenplay to keep the audience engaged, and those two aspects really do the heavy lifting for almost the entire run time.

Ehrenreich and Dynevor are essentially the only two developed characters in the film (all other members of the firm do not receive significant screen time), and they do incredible work. Ehrenreich is having quite the year, between this film, Oppenheimer, and Cocaine Bear, which are bringing him back into the public eye after the semi-failure of what was supposed to be his big break, Solo: A Star Wars Story. And bring him back into the public eye is exactly what his performance in this film should do, as Ehrenreich is absolutely ferocious creating a complex, dynamic character and meaningful character arc, without ever feeling forced. 

Dynevor also delivers a fascinating performance, depicting a character who really comes into her own throughout the film. By the end, the character is completely different than she was at the beginning, but the change is done seamlessly. Paired together, the two are dynamite. During the last third of the film, the two nail their multiple scenes of screaming at each other.

Dynevor and Ehrenreich in an early scene. Image courtesy of The Indian Express.

Dynevor and Ehrenreich in an early scene. Image courtesy of The Indian Express.

Domont’s brilliant dialogue gives the actors excellent scenes to chew on. The film builds tension seamlessly, leading to an explosive ending. It dives deep into the characters’ psyches, developing a sense of empathy for both characters, especially Luke — something that a weaker screenplay would not have been able to do, considering some of the characters’ truly despicable actions. Domont is also able to have the characters talk in business jargon without ever making the audience feel behind.

The script also explores gender dynamics and expectations, starting from the very beginning when Emily gets promoted instead of Luke. Luke immediately jumps to the conclusion that Emily slept with the boss to get the promotion, which she didn’t. The film could have benefitted from exploring these themes deeper, but that may have distracted from the other ideas being expressed, like greed and abuse of power in the workplace.

The one thing that falls flat in the film is the direction and cinematography. Visually, the film is stale, bland, and fairly one note. Save for one or two scenes (the bathroom scene pictured above) that are interestingly framed, the color palette stays gray and dull. Although Domont brings her A game in the screenplay department, her directing could use some work in order to bring forward a more distinctive visual style.

Fair Play is an electric debut feature for Chloe Domont, establishing her as a talent to watch in the future. 

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