THE MOVIE "Fair Play"
WHERE Streaming on Netflix and at Cinema Arts Centre, Huntington
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Co-workers at a Wall Street hedge fund keep their romantic relationship — and engagement — secret around the office in "Fair Play," the feature filmmaking debut of veteran TV director Chloe Domont ("Ballers" and more).
But Emily (Phoebe Dynevor, "Bridgerton") and Luke (Alden Ehrenreich, "Solo: A Star Wars Story") find their home life threatened when she gets a promotion he thought belonged to him, and the feelings of jealousy and inadequacy threaten to overwhelm him.
The movie, streaming on Netflix and also showing at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, is scripted by Domont. It co-stars the always great Eddie Marsan ("Ray Donovan" and so many others) as Emily and Luke's boss Campbell.
MY SAY This is one of those rare movies that has been made with a clear and precise vision, shaped on the page, translated to the screen and seen through to its conclusion without wavering.
Domont sets the stage for an epic story of personal destruction in a split-screen universe. She combines the pressures latent in the workplace, where Emily and Luke go to great lengths to hide their relationship while operating in a male-dominated environment, with the world inside their apartment, where intimacy transforms into coldness and then something worse.
The settings feed off each other to create a sense of snowballing catastrophe that fills the movie with tension.
That extends to the production design: the structure of the workplace, with Emily in her glass office and Luke on the floor with the other analysts, only enhances the increasing separation.
Similarly, they come to increasingly occupy opposite spaces in and around the apartment, as Luke isolates himself while Emily spends more and more nights out with her work peers, before returning home late and repeatedly struggling to find the correct key.
Domont relentlessly adheres to an uncompromising view of the ways in which shifting power dynamics, colored by a deeply rooted sense of personal insecurity, can come to define even the most intimate and important of relationships. There's not a wasted moment to be found.
Another great strength in "Fair Play" lies in its empathy. Even as Luke descends to a dark place, and starts to behave reprehensibly, Ehrenreich ensures that every action gets rooted in something specific. As his wounded, frail ego causes him to spin out of control, to refuse to see the destruction he has wrought, there's not a moment that's defined by anything but recognizable human frailty.
Dynevor expertly captures the personal struggle that eats away at Emily. She becomes punished for her professional success, faced with the constant, toxic presence of this man in her life, compelled to worry incessantly about his feelings.
She's particularly apt at transitioning this sense of being conflicted and tortured into one that's more resolute, as Emily comes to realize that no amount of consoling or damage control can pull Luke from his path of self-destruction.
BOTTOM LINE It's one of the more incisive and powerfully made movies about relationship dynamics in a good long while.