Promising Young Woman [Review]

I have been trying to write about this film and what I thought of it for a while. From the very first trailer, Promising Young Woman was on my radar, a film I simply couldn’t wait to see. After it’s premiere at Sundance and seeing people I admire rave about it, my anticipation grew even more. Sure, some fear decided to creep in because I was scared I was setting my expectations a little too high. So after watching it, I sat on my thoughts and tried to form coherent words about what I had watched and how I felt about it. Even now, weeks laters, I still don’t really know how to properly explain my feelings about the film, not because I didn’t like it, the other way around really. Promising Young Woman will probably be divisive, some will love it while others will not. From the message, to the style, to it’s ending, the film doesn’t shy away from swinging from the fences and, in my opinion, scores at every turn.

A female revenge fantasy film, Promising Young Woman follows Cassie (Carey Mulligan) who, years after dropping out of medical school to take care of her friend who was raped and told that it was her own fault, takes revenge on men who take advantage of drunk women. But when her past comes back to haunt her, Cassie goes on a revenge mission to avenge her friend and make everyone pay for what they did years earlier. But her quest for revenge might not lead her exactly where she wanted and fairly quickly, everything takes a turn for the worst.

Director Emerald Fennell (Killing Eve Season 2) never shys away from the film’s message, and with a very distinct style creates a film that is memorable from start to finish. With her directorial debut, Fennell creates a world that is fleshed out but also a very distinct style in the way she approaches the film. It’s clear from the beginning that she has a style and she never loose sight of it. From the cinematography to the soundtrack, Promising Young Woman doesn’t try to be shy about what it is, it’s message laid out perfectly clear and never trying to be anything else then what it is. But if the film is clear about what it is, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have surprise along the way, surprises that elevates the film to something very special.

I won’t go into too much details about the films ending because experiencing it for the first time was one of the highlights of the film, but it is clear to me that this will not be for everyone. It’s probably the most divisive thing the film does but it also so important. The film doesn’t try to glorify it’s main character and her quest for revenge, instead going in with the idea of making everyone accountable for their action. With the #MeToo movement still at the center of a lot of conversation, Promising Young Woman is probably the embodiment of that movement. It’s hard to see a film like this come to our screen years ago, where the female revenge plot wasn’t there to help man fantasy, instead being about female empowerment and how society treats women who come forward about their rape. It’s a message that we too often don’t see in films or if we do is never handled the way Promising Young Woman does.

Carey Mulligan (An Education, Drive) should be in every conversation for Best Actress in this upcoming award season. This role is so against type for her, something that we haven’t seen from her. The nuance that she brings to the character and the way she can play the multiple facets of Cassie is remarkable. It is what I would consider her best role yet, a role that at first glance might not be what you expect from her and yet, it works perfectly. And then, there’s Bo Burnham, in a role that is very typical of him but just like anything in this film, manages to surprise you more then ever. His chemistry with Mulligan is a highlight of the film and he manages to delivers his characters multiple facets with subtlety that we might have no seen of him before.

Promising Young Woman will turn heads and start conversations. Sure, some will hate it but I am of those that has fallen for it. It’s stylish, with a great soundtrack and expert directing from Fennell who proves that she has a lot of potential as a director. Mulligan delivers on every front and it should be an award season contender because of the subject but also the way the film delivers it. It’s one to watch and if you want a good and thrilling revenge film, Promising Young Woman might just be it for you.