When Fair Play first graced our screens, it immediately piqued my interest. However, I couldn’t help but hesitate every time I considered watching it. I would literally recoil every single time and I had no clue why because I did want to watch it. I mean, Daphne Bridergton playing such a serious role? Of course, I was intrigued. It wasn’t until my editor assigned it to me that I finally had no choice but to give it a chance. Little did I know the roller coaster of emotions and profound character developments that awaited me in this film.
The story introduces us to Emily, a dedicated analyst working at a thriving hedge fund who’s passionate about finance. Despite her professional success, Emily’s personal life remains a secret. She’s been in a clandestine two-year relationship with her coworker, Luke, a fellow analyst, defying company policy. A bond we are led to believe is unbreakable is quickly and efficiently threatened by a promotion. Emily learns the hard way what it means to be a woman in a man’s world, and she shows how far she’s willing to go to take back the power that was taken from her.
I obviously, still had doubts about this movie when I started, but then came the period sex scene. I sat up a little straighter when Luke didn’t react the way I’m sure most of us expected him to when he saw the blood on his lips. They didn’t even act like it was a big deal but were so comfortable with each other. Have you ever had sex with a man and mid-way, you both find out you’re bleeding? For a lot of women, what follows usually isn’t pretty. I thought Emily and Luke were cute and it seemed like they were madly in love with each other. I had no clue how the plot was about to unfold.
At work, the following day, Emily overhears that Luke is about to get promoted to PM – Portfolio Manager.
Emily’s eyes widen a bit when she hears Luke’s name. After the initial 2-second shock, her lips split into an elated grin. You can see it in her eyes, she’s truly and completely happy for Luke. It wasn’t something she had to sit on or consider. She didn’t have to weigh her wants against his success. She was just happy. Her happiness for Luke didn’t eclipse the fact that she wanted to make PM as well. Luke, her partner, was about to achieve a big dream of his. At that moment, it didn’t matter that it was her dream too. She wanted it and she was happy for him.
We clearly and openly see that when Luke is the one getting the promotion, Emily’s ambition doesn’t overshadow her love for him so much so that it rocks the entire relationship.
Luke seems like he is such a catch. He’s loving, romantic, charismatic, and doesn’t care that he got menstrual blood all over and inside his mouth while going down on his girlfriend. How could a guy like him not be the perfect boyfriend and fiancee?
Despite all of Luke’s “goodness”, who he is at his core slips through even before it becomes obvious to us. While taking a shower and conversing, Luke slips in, ‘Are you jealous’? That was a perfect prelude to his own feelings and actions after Emily got back from seeing the head of their company, Campbell, at 2 a.m., the next morning.
When Emily gets to the club where she meets Campbell, she’s not sure what to expect. When he starts asking her questions, she’s still puzzled, but we see for a fact that she’s settled into the conversation; maybe a part of her knew what was coming. Campbell starts listing her accomplishments, ‘Harvard, Citi, then Goldman’, giving her praise without actually praising her. It was like he was reciting facts from a spreadsheet.
Campbell said something that stayed with me. “It must be exhausting for a bird to have to run a mile” and Emily responded, “I’ve gotten used to it”. Essentially, Campbell does praise Emily for the hard work she’s put into her job over the years and because she knows she’s that b-tch, she casually responds by saying she does it all the time; it’s no big deal. This scene tells us, the audience, that Emily has gotten to where she is because of sheer intelligence and determination. They made it clear so we would have no questions about her character.
Though Luke seemingly reacts well when Emily delivers the news, we see him start to retreat and become the opposite of who was introduced to us at the beginning. He congratulates Emily and tells her he’s genuinely happy for her, and maybe he is, but the longer he works as her analyst, the angrier and more frustrated he gets.
When Emily got her promotion, we didn’t get to see her happy once. All the joy that must have been exploding inside of her was completely overshadowed by her worry and guilt about getting the position instead of Luke. Remember when Luke supposedly got the position? Emily was so ecstatic she couldn’t wait one second. She was so happy, they had sex that night. Not once did Luke feel guilt or discomfort at the fact that he got the position first. I mean he was the man, right? It’s okay if he gets promoted first. It’s okay that Emily remains an analyst. Her time will come.
The double standards that rule in favour of men in the world we live in today were strongly highlighted in Fair Play. Chloe Domont, I feel was on a mission to show women and more specifically men, that this is why we still need feminism in 2023 and why we will need it for many more years to come. People claim that we have achieved rights and that feminism is obsolete. However, if the first thing that comes to your mind upon encountering a successful woman is that she must have used inappropriate means to reach her position, then the need for feminism persists.
Fragile Masculinity at its Finest
Luke’s descent into a whirlpool of rage and envy is a stark illustration of fragile masculinity quickly tunnelling into toxic masculinity. After overhearing two male analysts imply that Emily essentially ‘f-cked her way to the top’, he begins to entertain the idea that Emily’s success was a result of her intimate relations with their boss, as his fragile masculinity takes hold. Luke initially presents as one of the “good guys” who champions gender equality but reveals a different side when confronted with a woman in a superior position. He attributes Emily’s achievements to factors other than her own abilities, refusing to acknowledge her hard work.
In her need to make things right, Emily endeavours to secure a promotion for Luke, undeterred by his incompetence. She faces his disdain for her ideas, in addition to his efforts to belittle her. The stark contrast between her determination and his indifference highlights the dynamics at play in their relationship.
I raged as I watched Luke, under the guidance of his version of Andrew Tate, take and take pieces of who Emily was. He chips away at her self-assuredness, leading her to make a costly mistake based on his flawed advice. The consequences of this misstep are dire, Campbell straight up called her “a dumb f-cking bitch”. Twice. Apparently, it was what she needed to wake up from her love-induced sleep. When she has the chance to win the money back, she ignores all of Luke’s sage advice and goes with her gut. It pays off. Watching those scenes unfold was everything. Emily stepped into her power and I revelled in every second of it.
Soon after, her former boss, Rory, gets fired. Luke shamelessly demanded that Emily help him get the position. Emily was shocked by his audacity. Luke’s envy and bitterness, driven by Emily’s newfound superiority, become increasingly apparent. Their confrontation leads to a pivotal moment, with Emily inadvertently revealing Campbell’s reservations about Luke’s suitability for the job.
Luke’s humiliation reaches its zenith as he grovels in front of Campbell, only to be replaced by a newly appointed portfolio manager. The fallout from this humiliation is intense. Emily and Luke confront the tumultuous nature of their relationship, leading to a catastrophic sequence of events.
Emily’s patience is stretched to its limits when Luke fails to return home for two consecutive nights. His eventual arrival in a state of inebriation sparks a public confrontation in the office, exposing their secret relationship, a direct violation of company policy. Luke’s actions detonate a bomb within their lives, setting the stage for an unexpected turn of events. It is so like a man to throw a tantrum simply because he didn’t get what he wanted.
Emily; Our Unlikely Heroine
Emily is enraged, and I am here for it. It was about damn time. I was fed up with her making excuses for Luke up until this moment. She finds out from Luke’s brother that same day after he uprooted both their lives because he couldn’t possibly go down alone, that he was at the engagement party her mom had planned despite her objections. When Emily gets there, she immediately calls him out, completely unphased by the fact that they are surrounded by loved ones.
Luke swings back as expected, and he swings low. He finally says what he had been thinking all along: He has convinced himself that Emily slept her way to the top, and that there’s no other way she could possibly have earned her position. He says this in such a venomous way that Emily, high on her heartache and rage, smashes a wine bottle above his head. Tbh, I wanted to watch him bleed. As she runs into the bathroom, Luke follows her, continuing to rain insult after insult. Emily is at her wit’s end, but she gives as good as she gets.
Finally, she says what we’ve all been thinking. She was happy for him, and though she was jealous and wanted the position as well, she wasn’t threatened. And her ego wasn’t bruised. Her self-esteem, self-love, and love for him weren’t that fragile. After Luke pushes her violently, Emily goads him into hitting her, but he kisses her instead. There’s a thin line between love and hate, and these two have been riding it for a while now. Luke takes Emily from behind, and at first, it’s everything she’s been asking for, but suddenly he’s too rough. He’s holding on to her hair tighter, pushing her face against the counter with full force. She’s telling him to stop, but he’s only focused on himself now. Emily no longer matters, or she does, and hurting her pleases him.
Emily was wronged on so many levels that if I start listing them, I probably won’t stop. She deserved her revenge, and I was waiting at the edge of my seat for it. I just didn’t expect it to happen the way it did. Like everything else Emily had gotten in her life, she had to fight. After being raped by her fiancee, Emily put herself back together and went back into the office. She told Campbell that Luke had been stalking her for months and that she had rejected him over and over again, but he just wouldn’t accept it. She said he had begun to make up stories about their lives together. She denied everything between them and closed that chapter of her life. I know she lied but can you even blame her?
Later that night, when Emily got home, Luke was there with his suitcases packed up. He was suddenly civil and put together. He starts talking like everything is okay and like he didn’t just rape her the day before. He’s talking about dividing their things and starting a new company, and Emily is rooted in disbelief. She is shaking with unbridled rage. She asks him why he wasn’t apologizing or begging for forgiveness. Emily reveals her injuries, and his defence is that she smashed a wine bottle over his head. She calls him out for raping her, and as he stutters excuses, Emily grabs a knife.
She starts walking towards him, listing everything he did. She tells him to beg for mercy, and when he’s not quick enough, she cuts him. She asks him to cry, and when he doesn’t, she cuts again. She tells him to say, “I’m sorry I hurt you; I’m sorry I raped you; I’m nothing ”. He does, which ends with him crying and genuinely begging for forgiveness. She gets on her knees across from him and holds his head between her hands. They are forehead-to-forehead now. Then she asks him to clean up his blood and get out of her apartment. She was done. It was like the end of a great play.
A woman, confident in who she is and what she can do, would usually only bend, if at all, for the person she loves. Most men can only love you so much. As long as you stay in your lane, beneath him, he will forever be ready to cheer you on, but don’t make the mistake of stepping out of line. Don’t you dare dream for more. Don’t you dare surpass him. Believe it or not, a lot of men will side with Luke. They’ll say, What do you expect? Luke was emasculated. Any man will feel ashamed. Many would do what he did. And that is the exact problem. Too many men would do it. Too many men are Luke.
Vicious, cruel, barbaric, illegal, or not, Emily is the heroine I didn’t know I needed because if Luke had made PM first, they would have gone on living in bliss. They would have gotten married, and Emily would probably have agreed to leave the firm for him. Or she would make PM after Luke, and they would all celebrate. Emily wouldn’t feel threatened, and she wouldn’t hurt Luke over and over again simply because he got something she wanted. She wouldn’t accuse him of getting it through sex. It wouldn’t even be a question. She would have just loved him as he should have loved her.