When we first meet young lovers Luke (Alden Ehrenreich) and Emily (Phoebe Dynevor) in Fair Play, they seem perfect for each other, sneaking off during a wedding to have messy sex in the bathroom which culminates in a spontaneous proposal. But this brief moment of carefree intimacy between the couple—who are also coworkers at a high-powered hedge fund—soon gives way to jealousy and mind games once Emily is promoted over Luke.

What follows is a study in male fragility, as Luke’s career begins to suffer while Emily thrives in her new role, and female rage, with Emily bristling under the manipulation and increasingly humiliating outbursts from her fiancé.

Spoilers follow.

The rising tension between the two explodes over into their workplace when a visibly drunk Luke, who has been AWOL for several days, barges into an important meeting and reveals their secret relationship to Emily’s boss, accusing her of sexual misconduct. While enraged in that moment, Emily later learns that nobody at the firm cares, as long as she is discreet: for better or worse, she is protected by her senior position at the firm, a position usually occupied by men.

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When Emily confronts Luke about his behavior, their argument turns heated, but what begins as a consensual encounter soon turns into a sexual assault, with Luke repeatedly ignoring Emily’s protestations.

The next day, Emily comes home to find Luke has packed his belongings and is moving to San Francisco, effectively ending their relationship. Emily is shocked and infuriated that he takes no accountability for his recent gaslighting, and he outright denies sexually assaulting her the night before, even when she shows him the bruises.

Emily seems to reach her own inner conclusion that a violent act of her own is warranted in order to make Luke accept culpability, and so she grabs a knife from the kitchen and physically threatens him, even slashing his arm before he finally breaks down and apologizes, telling her: “I’m nothing.”

Satisfied, Emily kneels down next to Luke and says: “Now wipe the blood off my floor, and get out. I’m done with you now.”

Speaking with Tudum following the film’s release on Netflix, Fair Play writer and director Chloe Domont reflected on the film’s intense final act, and the rocky journey that both characters went on to get there.

“While there are elements of female rage, the last scene is not about female revenge, it’s about holding a man accountable and getting him to face his own inferiority,” she said. “Luke’s inability to own up to that causes both of them so much pain and so much destruction. For me, the whole film really builds up to the moment when Emily finally gets Luke to acknowledge his own failure and his own weakness, when he finally mutters the words ‘I’m nothing’ — because more than being a film about female empowerment, this is really a film about male fragility.”

fair play, netflix, alden ehrenreich, phoebe dynevor

Netflix

“The most gratifying scene to film in terms of Emily biting back [was] when they get into a screaming match around the kitchen counter,” Domont added, “when she finally tells him that Campbell wanted to fire him because he’s the one who’s weak. Emily fights back with her words, which are arguably more cutting than the literal slice that she gives Luke in the end.”

Ultimately, Domont wrote that climactic scene the way she did in order to give both her characters what they needed to move forward: catharsis for Emily, and a chance for Luke to face up to what he has done.

“I think that if Emily had just let him walk out that door without that kind of confrontation, he would have continued to fail upwards, believing his own narrative about how he was wronged and deprived of what he ‘deserved,'” she explained. “By forcing him to acknowledge the brutality he inflicted on her, as well as face his own failures on a deep emotional level, my hope is that he would actually learn from that and he would, at the very least, do better next time.”

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Philip Ellis is News Editor at Men’s Health, covering fitness, pop culture, sex and relationships, and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV, and he is the author of Love & Other Scams.