Promising Young Woman tells the story of Cassie Thomas, a 30-year-old medical school dropout, lives with her parents. Years earlier, her classmate Al Monroe raped her best friend Nina Fisher; there was no investigation by the school or legal system. Now Cassie spends her nights feigning drunkenness in clubs, allowing men to take her to their homes, and revealing her sobriety when they try to take advantage.
At its best, Promising Young Woman delivers a story that is necessary in our day and age while masterfully incorporating elements of a revenge fantasy. The film’s direction is often manipulative and subversive in nature, stringing the audience along through a provocative screenplay that is riddled with unexpected moments. Going beyond the obvious intent of interrogating rape culture, the film is relentless in its pursuit to demonstrate the devastating damage that sexual assault brings to its victims, be it primary or secondary.
Demonstrating a remarkable acting range, lead actor Carey Mulligan delivers a career best as Cassie Thomas. Alternating from a charming girl-next-door persona to a conniving schemer that is always one step ahead of her target, Mulligan’s impeccable performance makes her a strong contender for this year’s Oscar race. Mulligan’s ferocity and vulnerability adds a whole new dimension to the film, as the audience starts discovering the character’s motivation in embarking on such a costly mission.
While the film is understandably grim and depressing considering its subject matter, it is also surprisingly strong on humour as it expertly swings between thriller and dark comedy. Masterfully balancing between the two tones, Promising Young Woman is a fascinating demonstration of how a good director is able to juggle two seemingly clashing tone. With impressive navigation, director Emerald Fennell manages to do something few filmmakers are able to achieve, which is making a political film that is fun and simultaneously heartbreaking to watch.
Bound to keep the audience on their toes at all times, Promising Young Woman brings a twisted piece of revenge fantasy that is unfortunately grounded in real-life truths. Underneath its sugar-coated color palette, the film is essentially a genre blending trip into the mind of a very broken individual. Radiating with much anger, energy and insight, not only is Promising Young Woman a thought-provoking film from start to finish, it’s a necessary one.