Promising Young Woman, written and directed by Emerald Fennell, is a revenge thriller on a brutal topic–Don’t let the title mislead you. Cassie (Carey Mulligan), a 30-year old former medical student, is now a barista living with her parents In the opening scene we see a very inebriated Cassie barhopping and wandering the city streets at night.
The viewer doesn’t know why this bright and attractive woman is engaged in such risky, dangerous behavior. To say much more about the film’s artistic and courageous story would ruin it. But this is an extraordinary directorial debut that explores sexual aggression, objectification of women, and the denial of women’s voices.
Promising Young Woman not only portrays male antagonists, but also “non-believers” who are women and enablers to the trauma. This will inevitably be a controversial film because it depicts people hiding behind their smiles, popularity, and success without the underbelly of their criminal behavior being exposed or punished.
There is no redemption in Promising Young Woman and none can be expected. The bold ending was a surprise but satisfying in a way, and changes the entire tenor of the film and the perception of Cassie.
Carey Mulligan gives an Academy Award-worthy performance unlike any in her previous (mostly historical) films. She has to pivot from a fiery vessel of rage to a vulnerable young person hoping for change. Caught in a web of pain, rage, and broken dreams, Carey Mulligan’s character cannot imagine an alternative web of healing and mercy.
The supporting cast also is very strong: Bo Burnham as Ryan Cooper, a pediatric surgeon and love interest for Cassie, Alfred Molina as a conscience-struck lawyer filled with regrets, and Allison Brie as a medical school classmate.
Promising Young Woman is one of the darkest, most painful films I have seen in a very long time. It may stay with you for days after viewing, clotting your thoughts and feelings on this brutal subject.
The movie delivers its sucker punch when you least expect it. Not for everyone but for those who are intrigued by the relentless depth into human crimes and misdemeanors, don’t miss it!
Note: This film has echoes of “13 Reasons Why”, “Lila and Eve”, the classic “Goodbye Mr. Goodbar”, and “Killing Eve”.
Availability: Amazon Prime Video