Cast: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge and Laverne Cox
Directed by Emerald Fennell
Written by Emerald Fennell
A fantastical, yet honest depiction of the fallout from a young woman’s past, ‘Promising Young Woman’ tells the story of Cassandra, a café worker and ex-medical student who looks to take revenge on the predatory men who she encounters on nights out. A debut feature from actress and ‘Killing Eve’ showrunner Emerald Fennell, the film has garnered a great amount of attention from critics and audiences alike.
Firstly, Carey Mulligan’s performance in this film is brilliant, as she brings an intensity which both drives the narrative forward, and hints at something more painful hidden beneath. Within the film itself, her character is constantly putting on a performance for others, and Mulligan shows she is capable of such a range by creating convincing and contrasting changes to her role as Cassandra. Mulligan is the reason why many people will have been drawn to ‘Promising Young Woman’, and once again doesn’t disappoint.
Thematically, the film deals with some heavy ideas surrounding rape, and believing those who have experienced such trauma. There are already a number of films which tackle such a topic, but I imagine in the years to come a great many more will appear in the mainstream, with ‘Promising Young Woman’ showing itself as a step in the right direction for these stories. The film, however, does lean more towards the fantastical side of the way in which such confrontations may play out. It was often difficult to become immersed in a scene because of how one-sided the writing would feel in favour of Mulligan’s character, and whilst there is definitely a place in cinema for indulging in scenarios which are so favourable towards the victims, when it comes to telling a truthful recollection of such events, it must be acknowledged that rarely things play out so easily. This isn’t true of the whole film however, and the writing is at times both thought-provoking and measured, but there are a number of scenes in a short period of time which lack such a balance.
From a compositional standpoint, ‘Promising Young Woman’ doesn’t hold back from developing its exposition through sound. Moments of tension or danger are precisely shown through sudden crescendos in the score. Of course, such a technique is utilised by almost all films, but ‘Promising Young Woman’ in particular applies it to even the smallest moments of drama. Whilst this does mean that there’s a greater amount of tension within these moments, it can also mitigate the overall effect of the score when it comes to larger, and more dramatic scenes later on.
A well-made, if occasionally flawed film, ‘Promising Young Woman’ will hopefully be the beginning of more female-led movies which directly tackle themes of trauma and trust when it comes to sexual abuse. No matter who you are, I would recommend giving ‘Promising Young Woman’ a watch, even if it is just for the strength of Carey Mulligan’s performance.