Promising Young Woman (2020) ★★★★☆

A masterful caricature of revenge.

Directed by Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman shines a not-so-bright light on the life of Cassie, a former medical student whose life has been turned upside down by the rape of her best friend, Nina. Cassie is left boiling over with rage.

Despite the horrifying topics it addresses, Promising Young Woman revels as a surprisingly exciting and fast-paced film; it’s dark, smart and dangerous. And will scare the heck out of men. You will find yourself wondering if it’s OK to laugh at points, as even humour is incorporated rather surprisingly. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be sat all nicely on your sofa – your stomach will be clenching from anxiety, provoking a reaction unlike anything you’ve seen. Its closest comparison sits as a grittier, perhaps more polished Gone Girl. Promising Young Woman features an astonishing performance from Carey Mulligan – she truly owns the part and nobody will dare mess with her. The remainder of the cast don’t strike half as memorable as Mulligan, but this is likely due to the nature of the narrative and the vast amount of men involved within to get its message across so well.

While it may prove divisive among audiences, Promising Young Woman offers a perspective fresher than your laundry. It even avoids delving into preachy territory which we’re all sick of. It dives straight to the point and is darn proud of it. It’s refreshing to see a film exuding strength in its values rather than tiptoeing around them precariously. That said, depending on your own experiences (or not) with sexual assault, it’s likely this film can evoke a considerable amount of anguish among viewers, and its down to your judgement whether this flick is for you. Nonetheless, Promising Young Woman encourages the important conversation regarding the sickening predators that, all too frequently, surround us.

Yet, a couple of things don’t quite land as cleverly. When the film comes to an end, its solution doesn’t satisfy, the third act powering down rather than ramping up. That said, it’s the only glitch stopping the picture from going for gold, missing 5 stunning stars. A deep, striking narrative this like one really doesn’t deserve a vanilla ending.

The film may exaggerate behavioural elements in the sad reality of Cassie’s “comeback” – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t onto something. Should Promising Young Woman convince you that our skepticism about sexual assault is deep-rooted in our brains? No. But the film has resonated for a reason. It reflects an unsettling, troubling aspect intertwined in humanity, and expressed it.

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