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Comical and Confronting: A Review of Promising Young Woman

Warning: this article includes topics of rape and sexual assault

Fresh from winning the Best Original Screenplay at the 2021 Academy Awards, Promising Young Woman is an impressive dark comedy-thriller directed by Emerald Fennell. After first debuting at the Sundance Film Festival in early 2020 and constant delays due to coronavirus, the film is finally streaming everywhere and is something everyone should be watching.

The film follows the story of a medical school dropout, Cassie Thomas (Carey Mulligan), who attempts to ‘teach men a lesson’ since losing her friend, Nina, who was raped in college.

Cassie goes to nightclubs every week acting too drunk to understand, before revealing to men who try take advantage of her that she is completely sober.

We follow Cassie’s life seeing how she deals with the trauma and guilt of believing she didn’t do enough to save her friend. We get to experience her romantic storyline with an old loveable acquaintance played by Bo Burnham, but also certain parts of her life completely crash and burn.

This genre is extremely unfamiliar to me, but something I was converted to loving.

Promising Young Woman is an exciting film providing you with moments of shocking twists and turns that I could never have predicted.

The emotions that it was able to evoke even surprised myself. At times I felt upset, disappointed, gutted and sick because of how emotionally invested it made me. This made it even more confusing for the comedic and light hearted parts.

As I hadn’t experienced this genre it was interesting and felt strange because I found myself laughing at particularly how accurate and applicable the situations were.

“It’s every guy’s nightmare getting accused like that.”

“Can you guess what every women’s worst nightmare is?”

Hearing typical lines such as this undoubtedly forced eyerolls and head shakes in the theatre.


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In all honesty some scenes are uncomfortable, and seeing certain behaviour is quite gross. But for it to leave such an impact on me as a viewer, these parts were critical and just simply couldn’t be sugar coated.

The film explores extremely important themes, as we are constantly fed the victim blaming narrative of a nice guy taking Cassie home or her friend Nina asking for it because she was drunk at a party.

It acknowledges and tackles these conversations of how men speak about women and refusing to see the effects of their actions.

“If you have a reputation for sleeping around, then maybe people aren’t going to believe you when you say somethings happened.”

A part that especially stood out in my mind was the conversation between Cassie and old medical school friend, Madison McPhee (Alison Brie). It is revealed that Madison was completely aware of the rape of their friend Nina, but refused to believe her and felt it was purely just crying wolf.

While a lot of the focus is on men and the actual rapist Al Monroe (Chris Lowell), it was incredible to see the film also hold women such as Madison and the college Dean accountable who also attempt to silence these victims.


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What would you have me do? Ruin a young man’s life every time we get an accusation like this?”

We hear this line in a college scene with Cassie speaking to the Dean, who doesn’t even remember Nina’s name, but knows Al as an outstanding person who just gave a talk to the students. I couldn’t help but find similarity and think of the recent court case of Brock Turner, who was found guilty of rape but always referred to as a star swimmer and by his achievements.

The characters costumes were also something I loved about this film as they contrasted so well with what we were actually watching.

The music paired with Cassie’s everyday clothing always featured eye-catching and girly pieces with pink, hair bows and floral dresses which portrayed her as quite innocent looking. Her actions were quite unexpected and the opposite of how the director made her appear.


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At parts throughout the movie we see discourse about the believability of sexual assault and characters changing their views. In some parts it felt a little unrealistic because I don’t think the change in attitude just simply does happen in every case. But, it explores this shift by showing that people start to care once it impacts them and the film still serves its purpose and gets the viewers talking.

It is definitely a movie I would recommend everybody to see, because once you have, all you want to do is discuss it with your friends and family.

The film finds a way to address rape culture and sexual assault but intertwine it with storyline that keeps you hooked and guessing.

It is incredibly powerful and I cannot remember the last time I was impacted by a film and continued to think about it for days. It creates conversation and one that should be had.

Promising Young Woman is available on streaming platforms now.


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