Content Warning: This review talks about a movie that deals heavily with sexual assault and suicide.
This film was definitely a hard watch, with many moments of discomfort and anxiety, but all in all a fairly accurate representation and overall worth the watch. Labeled “the female joker” on many social media platforms, the film presents an empowering, slightly satirical female revenge story unlike any I have ever seen.
“Promising Young Woman” stars Carey Mulligan playing Cassandra, a depressed and angry young woman seeking vengeance for her now deceased best friend, Nina. The movie starts off highly anxiety-inducing with a scene that introduces Cassandra's plan.
Cassandra lures men who plan on taking advantage of women and catches them in the act. With a slight fourth wall break, she causes intense fear and enacts her ideal version of punishment for those that ignore the rules of consent. While the moments leading up to her catching the men in the act give you a pit in your stomach, the intense demeanor she has while catching them feels empowering.
The irony of the film’s title is brilliantly played at by the dean of the medical school attended by Cassandra and, before her passing, Nina. The dean is being asked about her knowledge of the attacks fellow classmate Al Monroe committed against Nina. Her play at the title is her response: “What a promising young man.”
“Promising Young Woman” toys with the societal position of men; in this case, their tendency of getting away with their sickening actions because of their “bright futures” ahead of them. Yet this same notion doesn’t extend to the survivors, whose lives can be destroyed by speaking out. It’s a frustrating plot point to watch but is extremely impactful as we see that happen in real life all too often.
For example, some of us may be familiar with Christine Blasey Ford’s 2018 testimony against Brett Kavanaugh, which didn’t stop his “bright future” as a Supreme Court Justice.
The overall writing of this film was phenomenal. It was cohesive, left you on the edge of your seat, revealed important information in perfectly timed increments and had incredible dialogue that kept me fully engaged throughout the entirety of the film.
“Promising Young Woman” grapples with very serious subject matter without being overwhelmingly depressing. Fennel’s humor never takes away from the serious topics, just makes them easier to take in.
The big thing I appreciated about this movie is how empowering it was. As a survivor myself, it was helpful to have a movie written by a woman about an issue that predominantly impacts women. It manages to never trivialize the subject matter, but portray with full honesty how the world deals with it.
Seeing Cassandra take action when no one else would in extreme manners was rewarding to watch for those of us who have been silenced just as her friend Nina was.
Every aspect of this film is done excellently. Mulligan’s performance was remarkable. She portrays anger and grief in a realistic manner that lets the audience truly sympathize with her and the harm done to her friend and other women. Bo Burnham also lent a compelling performance to the film.
While “Promising Young Woman” was an extreme take on justice, I felt it deserved every second of intensity it laid out. It allowed Cassandra and myself as a viewer to feel angry and have that anger be expelled through fictional vengeance.
With a movie so good it makes you angry at Bo Burnham, this week’s film forecast calls for a sunny rating of five stars.
“Promising Young Woman” is currently streaming for free with ads on Amazon. Content Warning: This movie deals heavily with sexual assault, suicide and murder.
Deidre Evans, WWU Survivor Advocate: firstname.lastname@example.org, 360-650-7982
WWU Counseling and Wellness Center: 360-650-3164
Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services 24-hour helpline: 1-877-715-1563
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
Elaina Johnson (she/her) is a fourth-year political science major who has previously copy edited and been editor-in-chief for The Front. This quarter she is the opinions and outreach editor. She hopes to make engaging stories this quarter and reconnect with the community through various outreach. In her free time outside of The Front, she can be found watching movies, writing chaotic Letterboxd reviews and drinking oat milk chai. She can be reached at email@example.com.