I have been trying to write a review of Promising Young Woman for a week. I ended up loving the film (to be honest it was one of my most anticipated so perhaps that’s not a surprise) but not only did it leave me crying it left me really questioning what I had wanted out of it to begin with and why.
So the first part is going to be spoiler free but I do have to talk about spoilers. I need to purge my thoughts on this one and why I think it works exactly as intended to but understand why people feel differently.
Carey Mulligan plays Cassie, a young woman whose best friend was raped years ago and Cassie has never really been able to let it go. She spends her days slinging coffee (poorly) and her nights pretending to be drunk and letting guys “help” her at bars.
Going in I liked the idea of a revenge filled story here but it’s about more than that or more than a Me Too men are bad kind of thing. Though obviously rape culture and investigation on college campuses play a huge part. It’s also about trauma, secondary trauma and addiction and the inability to move past.
Right away I’d say watch Promising Young Woman for Mulligan’s performance. Plus Cassie is smart. The way she goes about things was- well I was consistently rooting for her.
Watching it made me sad she had dropped out and was on this path cause she could put that brain to making a difference.
I also liked the look of the film. Cassie’s wardrobe, the candy like colors and the pop soundtrack were all perfect. The film is written and directed by Emerald Fennell (who did season 2 of Killing Eve and plays Camilla in the Crown) and I can’t wait to see more of her. I’ve watched several interviews after the fact with her and Mulligan and appreciate what they say very much.
I’d recommend it for Mulligan’s performance alone. But also be aware it might be even more upsetting than you think.
So we follow Cassie who after meeting an old college acquaintance turns her revenge on the people that most betrayed Nina after the rape. The dual scenes with the Dean and the lawyer surprised me.
The Dean who lauded the guy and how great he was and literally didn’t remember Nina.
Dean: Was it reported?
Dean: Do you know who she spoke to?
The Dean’s cold rationalizations falling apart so damn fast the minute she begins to understand Cassie may have put her teenage daughter in the same position was kind of shocking.
That versus the defense attorney already on the verge of a breakdown who remembers Nina immediately and begs for Cassie to put him out of his misery. I also really liked his line about how “one drunk Instagram picture from a party” can turn a jury against an accuser. Good work from both Connie Britton and Alfred Molina and I liked that Cassie forgives him.
It’s here she begins to consider moving on, and as Nina’s mother tells her, letting go.
And as a viewer I really wanted her to at this point. Forget the revenge. But like most addictions there’s a trigger that can send you spiraling backward.
And Cassie winds up at the rapists bachelor party with him tied to the bed and we were back to, “Okay do what you need to girl.”
I was in tears when she finally started really talking about Nina and the line about Nina being first in the class until she dropped out and then he was really felt like a knife and cast his attack on her in a new light especially when she starts talking about Nina having felt erased by him.
I wanted her to win. I wanted her to prove her point…
And she very much did not.
And then we get the ending that divides everyone on the film. Where the guy gets out of restraints enough to struggle with and strangle Cassie. At which point when I realized Cassie was going to lose I literally yelled, “No! This isn’t what I wanted!” I was genuinely shocked it was going this way.
It doesn’t help the sense of loss that Cassie planned for the eventuality as well and he’s arrested for her murder so will finally face justice and not one but two promising young women were destroyed by that night.
So I think the movie does exactly what Emerald Fennell wanted. I hate to be a cliche and say it’s an emotional roller coaster but darned it is. And it’s intriguing it gets the point across.
I do understand why people are not going to like the ending. I’ve read some really interesting thoughts on the film from people who didn’t like it because it didn’t give them what they want (which I don’t know is a very fair criticism of any film) to others who say by killing Nina the actual victim was silenced.
I also do understand and even to an extent agree with the idea that we see a million male lead revenge driven dramas (often for a raped and murdered wife) and they always get away with it. Why did we have to see Cassie fail at the end of hers?
I’m glad Emerald Fennell stuck to her story (and cast Mulligan) on top of just being a good intriguing and timely character film. It really leaves you with a lot to think about and talk over. It’s literally taken me a week to get any sort of coherent thoughts together…Hence this long post.
I do hope people give the film a watch though like I said I can also understand why they may pass.