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Parents' Guide to

Fair Play

By Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Brutal study of toxic relationship has sexual violence.

Movie R 2023 113 minutes
Fair Play Movie Poster: On the right, Emily (Phoebe Dynevor) looks at the camera and appears to be unbuttoning her blouse, while Luke (Alden Ehrenreich) stands to the left and behind her, looking at her neck

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 18+

Based on 1 parent review

age 18+

Un-fair Play ( with sex and violence)

In an amateurish and voyeristic way, this movie has similarities to the far better directed  The Assistant. It is marketed as an erotic thriller, but I think there is little that is thrilling or very erotic about it. Was the Piano teacher an erotic film? Sexual yes, but not fun or romantic. This movie has the same tone, but clearly feels like a Hollywood rendition. In many ways, it just crude and gross. If you want to watch something sexy, watch Body Heat or even Basic Instinct. At least choose In the Cut, which is intentionally unsavory. ( I’m not recommending any of these films. Do sexy or erotic movies help the viewer learn anything, or improve our humanity in any way? Or are they just hedonistic?) The story is about misogyny in a highly competitive, male-dominated Wall Street firm. The two main characters share a lustful love, and there are some explicit ( although not pornographic) sex scenes. Some of them are very passionate, but the tone of the movie is dark. The movie opens with Emily and Luke at a party where they have lustful sex in the bathroom. But she has her period, and they end up with blood on their fancy clothes. The movie combines sex, danger, and tension but has little in the way of merit. It’s just a steamy, intense drama, that ends with both characters splatters in blood, just like it began. But not menstrual blood. This time they are bleeding from the finality of their rage. It is interesting to see these two much loved characters playing in such a tense drama. Luke is played by Alden Ehrenreich ( known for Solo: A Star Wars Story ) and Emily is played by Phoebe Dynevor from Bridgerton. She is beautiful, except when she is in “ flight or fight” mode. But both actors are given shallow characters to play, and we never really get to know them, which may be a blessing since there is so much trauma inflicted by each of them. I did like the fact that the film wrestles with what a healthy work-life balance looks like for a DINK couple on Wall Street, but this is a a difficult to watch psychological duel, not an erotic thriller. There is a rape scene in this movie that is intentionally controversial since it starts with angry sex. Luke and Emily are ending their relationship, and their argument suddenly turns into passionate, forceful sex. Emily is clearly into this as much as Luke, but Luke ignores her, and asserts dominance over her even though she is telling him to stop. Emily gets the last act of vengeance however, and this shows the depravity that both genders are capable of. Rather than being just a victim of Luke’s misogyny, the viewer is left wondering if Emily is guilty of misandry. Emily confronts Luke about what he did to her during their “ angry sex/ rape scene” and when Luke protests that they both “both got carried away”, she picks up a kitchen knife cuts him with it, getting blood on both of them ( obvious parallel to the first scene of sex and menstrual blood) She then forces him into humiliation, while he is pleading for forgiveness. I can’t recommend anything about this violent psychological thriller that begins and ends bloodshed, other than the fact that it shows the depths of human depravity when our egos are threatened. No one is sure if this saying originally derives from Jesus or Buddha’s teaching ( maybe both), but it certainly applies to this film and to all of us: “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” 

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1 ):
Kids say: Not yet rated

Avoiding the restrictions of a standard erotic thriller, this brutal drama expertly and equally explores the explosive passions of its two characters in a truthful, vivid, and unflinching way. Writer-director Chloe Domont, who's worked primarily in television, kicks off her feature film debut with a jaw-dropping opening that involves an attempt at intimacy in a restroom, blood, and a wedding ring. It's both a portrait of a relationship at its most passionate and an establishment of the movie's subsequent tone. Fair Play continues in a squirm-inducing way as the characters' relationship begins to curdle, bit by bit, with a sickening logic.

Passion turns from sensuousness to rage, and the characters lash out at each other in the same unthinking, animalistic ways with which they once embraced each other. But even if they aren't thinking, their behavior always seems to come from a logical, emotional place. We believe their feelings, and their actions follow. Moreover, both characters are equally fatally flawed. Domont also uses the hedge fund world to brilliant effect, playing up the toxic, callous atmosphere in which one co-worker will turn on another co-worker on a dime, with no remorse. (Her script's complex financial-speak dialogue sounds authentic -- and alien -- and serves to further unsettle.) To be sure, Fair Play isn't an easy watch, but it's a fascinating portrait of souls becoming corrupted, almost without warning.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: September 29, 2023
  • On DVD or streaming: October 6, 2023
  • Cast: Phoebe Dynevor , Alden Ehrenreich , Eddie Marsan
  • Director: Chloe Domont
  • Inclusion Information: Female directors, Female actors, Female writers
  • Studio: Netflix
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Run time: 113 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: pervasive language, sexual content, some nudity, and sexual violence
  • Last updated: September 27, 2023

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