The Netflix thriller film, ‘Fair Play,’ directed by Chloe Domont, explores the gender dynamics within the workforce through a story about an ambitious couple in the cutthroat hedge funds industry. Emily and Luke, financers at the same company, are in a secret, long-term, serious relationship and could not be more in love. However, shortly after their spur-of-the-moment engagement, an unexpected promotion sends Emily up the ladder with Luke left behind. The resulting events unfold a tense situation between the couple fueled by jealousy, insecurity, and whatever affection remains.
The film analyzes Emily and Luke’s relationship and delivers meaningful commentary about gender roles in heteronormative relationships, persisting societal sexism, and how they affect a woman’s professional career. Emily and Luke’s characters, brought to life by Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich’s provocative performances, embody fleshed-out characters, furthering the film’s authentic approach to such a heavy topic. Therefore, given the film’s depiction of a real-life issue within a realistic narrative, viewers must be curious to know about the story’s roots in reality. Let’s find out!
Is Fair Play Based on a True Story?
‘Fair Play’ is not based on a true story, yet the subject matter that the narrative traverses is deeply rooted in real life. Writer/director Chloe Domont spearheaded the film, setting out to tell a story about our society’s deep-rooted gender-based power dynamics. Through Emily and Luke’s tumultuous relationship, the narrative proposes a case study of the plight of the modern woman, operating in a patriarchal system that affects all corners of her life.
While the exact situation presented in the narrative remains a fabricated one, Domont took some crucial inspiration for the story from her own experiences. For her debut venture into feature-length films, Domont chose to highlight the link between female empowerment and male fragility, a problem she realized was universal yet never talked about.
“This film was definitely a reckoning with some experiences I had in the past, and it was really coming from this feeling I was having at a certain period of my life when my career started to take off and my success, you know, didn’t feel like a total win it felt like a loss on some level,” said Domont in a conversation with CineXpress.
“And that’s because of, you know, the kinds of relationships I was in,” the filmmaker continued. “These relationships with men who adored me for my strengths, and my ambitions, and my talent, but at the same time, they were threatened by it. And I think the biggest thing is that it was never anything that we could talk about. I think it was something that we were both afraid to admit, you know? That that’s what was really going on, and so I normalized it and continued to experience it, and it just made me realize the hold these ingrained power dynamics still have over us today. And so that’s why I wanted to put it on screen.”
An Exploration of Gender Roles
As such, Domont’s personal and firsthand experiences with Emily’s on-screen predicament significantly inform the way the film handles this issue. Consequently, the narrative carries an intrinsic authenticity that numerous viewers would be able to relate to. Furthermore, the premise of professional success negatively impacting women’s personal lives is a well-documented phenomenon backed by some research.
Famously, a 2020 BBC article by Maddy Savage discussed the connection between women’s promotions and divorce rates, using Olle Folke and Johanna Rickne’s joint journal publication ‘All the Single Ladies: Job Promotions and the Durability of Marriage’ as a reference. According to the paper, the chances of married heterosexual women getting a divorce after a promotion to CEO were twice as much as that of the male population.
One of the quotes BBC cited from Johanna Rickne, the Stockholm University professor, read, “It is still seen as quite unusual for men to be the main supportive spouse in someone else’s career.” The gist of the article and Rickne’s statement remains that within a heterosexual relationship, certain roles and expectations are assigned to each party. As such, when the partners’ career trajectory deviates from the same, it can often cause some friction in the relationship.
In her film, ‘Fair Play,’ Domont focuses on one such instance, perfectly depicting the situation’s intense and gradual pressure buildup through the thriller genre. Therefore, even though the characters and events themselves don’t have a real-life story behind them, the film strives to bring a real-life issue into focus. Thus, it results in a highly relatable film, charged with important social conversations to be had.
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