Promising Young Woman (2020)

Promising Young Woman (2020)

2020 R 113 Minutes

Thriller | Crime | Drama

A young woman, traumatized by a tragic event in her past, seeks out vengeance against those who crossed her path.

Overall Rating

9 / 10
Verdict: Great

User Review

  • WHAT I LIKED: Emerald Fennell's 'Promising Young Woman' is the most masterful takedown of hidden, complicit and ingrained misogyny that I've ever seen.

    In it, the central character Cassandra (Carey Mulligan) repeatedly goes out alone and acts drunk so that "nice guys," come over, offer to help, then inevitably take advantage of her when home, shrouding their intentions in "connections," or "attraction," so she ends up killing them. By day, she similarly goes around tracking down those who allowed a young man to rape a girl years ago and walk free, all in the vein of enacting revenge or redemption and bringing justice to the countless wrongs that men commit to women every day.

    The reason you feel so viscerally about that in the film though is not only because you see men behaving in evil ways; it's because most of the time, just as in reality, the misogyny wears such a polite face. The nice guys are acutely and horrifyingly observed; all thinking they're being lovely and considerate, but equally attempting to get Cassie drunk or high with one thing on their minds, or standing by whilst others do so. Even beyond that, men say things like "I wish you wouldn't wear so much make-up, guys don't even like that," whilst Cassie's friends and parents subtley and continuously reinforce the notion that she simply *needs* boyfriend, and others repeat the idea that a girl is asking to be raped, or at the very least that you have to give the perpetrator the benefit of the doubt, if she's been drinking.

    This gives the central character a similar - though even more compelling - emotional justification than someone like Jennifer in 'Jennifer's Body,' but it crucially translates empathetically as well because Fennell treats Cassie not simply as a revenge-driven murderer, but as a layered, human individual. She's continually grappling with how complicit others are, and whether her response should be driven by revenge or redemption, and that's something we can emotionally engage with as well as seriously think about.

    In the end, she settles on revenge but it all goes horribly wrong, and the film delivers a final, crushing, gut-punch of a blow about misogyny, and more crucially, complicity, persevering - albeit with a slight twist. As the credits rolled, I felt sick. This is all so real, and whether it's been done before or not, I've never personally seen these real horrors observed on film quite as acutely as this.

    WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: It is perhaps a film driven by its themes more than anything, but that's no bad thing when they're brought to life so powerfully.

    VERDICT: 'Promising Young Woman' accutely broadcasts the sickeningly complicit face of real-world misogyny in a way that I've never seen, and has its central character grapple with revenge or redemption within that until the very end.