Promising Young Woman is a black comedy revenge thriller with a knockout performance by Carrie Mulligan. In this directorial debut from Emerald Fennell, Mulligan plays 30-year-old Cassie Thomas, who is hell-bent on exacting revenge for a loved one who was raped. Turning the sexual assault trope on its head, Thomas seeks out those who failed her friend, holding them accountable for their actions.
This film tackles the tough issues of sexual assault and rape but does so in such an empowering and brave way. This film takes the notion of rape scenes used as fodder to show weakness or the character of a male character and weaponizes it. A woman is now in control, and she is using pre-conceived notions about victim-blaming and victim-shaming to enact her revenge.
When toeing the line between rape and a dark parody and examination on rape, the audience has to believe the main character’s motivation. Mulligan is the linchpin of the entire movie. Every action, emotion, and shred of ethos rest on her expert shoulders. She continues her trajectory towards stardom, challenging the notion of what type of content can make an actor a star.
It’s not an easy movie to watch, with graphic and frank depictions of sexual assault that can be triggering for some viewers. The heavy subject matter is juxtaposed with stunning cinematography, the bright lights and bold colors of bars and clubs further outlining the seedy nature of predators and rape culture. Every single detail is purposeful and precise, which is required for a movie that has fallen under such intense scrutiny.
The climax of the movie is brutal and graphic, but for once it allows for survivors to have the last word. For centuries, Hollywood was built on women and their stories being sidelined for their male counterparts. Promising Young Woman violently rips that away and places it in the hands of those who are best equipped to tell those stories: women.