Forget the Phoebe Dynevor you loved as Daphne Bridgerton in Shonda Rhimes’s critically acclaimed Regency romance series, “Bridgerton”.
The 28-year-old actress ushers in a new era with “Fair Play”, which reminds me of that well-worn cliché, “all’s fair in love and war”.
And when you watch the Netflix psychological thriller, you will understand why it’s apt.
She straddles that fine line between right and wrong with such prowess that you wonder where she’s been hiding all this time. Perhaps, in those corsets and gowns, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
Dynevor is a revelation in this film, where she shares the spotlight with Alden Ehrenreich as Luke Edmunds. And if he looks familiar, it is probably because of “Supernatural”, his breakthrough role, and his recent movie, “Cocaine Bear”.
The premise centres on two analysts at One Crest Capital, a leading hedge fund company in Manhattan.
Emily Meyers (Dynevor) and Luke are co-workers, who have broken the cardinal rule about office relationships by getting engaged.
The opening frames of the film play out like something out of a romcom. Emily and Luke sneak into the bathroom at the wedding of Luke’s brother for some nooky. It doesn’t go as planned and the two end up sneaking out of the event.
As far as loved-up and deliriously happy couples go, the two live and breathe it until the dynamics in the office change after one of the company’s portfolio managers loses his shit and is shown the door.
Emily, overhearing a conversation where Luke was being considered as a replacement, lets him know. And the two prematurely celebrate.
But then Campbell (Eddie Marsan), the company CEO, invites Emily to a late-night meeting, where he offers her the job.
When Luke finds out, he congratulates Emily. But his brooding around the flat, suggests otherwise. Not long after that, he turns to self-help books to help elevate himself.
At the office, he quietly watches Emily welcomed into the fold His clenched jaw not only confirms his unhappiness but his suppressed jealousy too.
Emily overcompensates for getting the job instead of him. Not that she is incompetent. But her sense of loyalty towards her fiancé makes her blind to his growing resentment.
And this becomes increasingly apparent in his lack of intimacy towards her. His deliberate avoidance of any interaction when they are in the flat and his rejection of all her treats.
Amid the growing tension between Emily and Luke, who has yet to tell his family about their engagement, her excited mother compounds the situation by deciding to throw them an engagement party.
The more Emily shines in the eyes of the CEO, the more Luke begrudges her success. And despite Emily’s many attempts to help him climb the ladder, Luke decides to do things his way.
Unfortunately, his pathetic effort to get the CEO to give him a chance when another position opens, backfires and he ends up dragging Emily into his mess by revealing their secret.
The situation gets ugly and violent as Emily and Luke get to the point of no return in their relationship.
“Fair Play” is the directorial debut of Chloe Domont, who also wrote the script and imbued it with personal experiences.
She’s done a sterling job of boldly tackling GBV, gaslighting and toxic masculinity in the film. And her leads play their respective roles with commendable finesse.
Ehrenreich masterfully unleashes the darkness of his character as his love for Emily is consumed by his animosity towards her.
Dynevor shows off her range as an actress. She is confident in the role, which requires her to be powerful and vulnerable, loving and guarded and, ultimately, vengeful but forgiving.
“Fair Play” is by no means the best psychological thriller. But it is thought-provoking and, if nothing else, perhaps a cautionary tale.
∎“Fair Play” is streaming on Netflix.