The opening of the film “Promising young woman” shows men in a nightclub dancing, drinking and having fun, in a somewhat pathetic way. Cut the image to the bar where 3 men with toxic masculinity flirt and judge a girl who is a few meters away from them, sitting “inappropriately” and totally drunk. They begin to criticise her behaviour at the same time that they desire her. A new take, one of the 3 boys, who had shown himself to be more respectful, comes over to the girl and decides to help her by offering a lift home. During the journey, he invites her to go to his apartment, but she is practically unconscious. They arrive at his apartment, he gives her more alcohol and starts harassing her. She says no, but he doesn’t listen to her and goes on the attack while she’s in bed and says “What are you doing?” while he’s taking off her panties.
So far we have seen the old, sad and revolting story of the man who takes advantage of the woman’s drunkenness to sexually assault her, without her consent. Anyone who predicts the development of this story is wrong. At this moment, the first and impressive plot twist of the narrative takes place, in which it is revealed that that woman is on the hunt for men who abuse women and uses her unorthodox methods to take revenge on them. Back home, she has a notebook, filled with a list of the men she has encountered and the several names in store for a “day of reckoning.”
Written and directed by Emerald Fennell (“Killing Eve”) in her debut as a director, “Promising young woman” is an electrifying and bitter crime, drama and thriller movie, starring Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Laverne Cox, Jennifer Coolidge and Clancy Brown, and which was deservedly nominated for the Golden Globe Awards for ” Best Motion Picture – Drama “. The film portrays the story of Cassie (Carey Mulligan), a young woman, traumatised by a tragic event in her past, who lives with her parents, is lonely, has a mediocre work in a cafeteria and has dropped out of medical college course. Even when Rayan (Bo Burnham) a nice former college classmate reapers in her life admitting has a crush on her, she doesn’t change her focus on the plan.
She seeks out vengeance against those who crossed her path, but what is a surprising element in this story is she wants to take revenge on the people who harmed her best friend Nina who was sexually assaulted by their classmates from the medicine course, who weren’t punished by the law and the college. They destroyed Nina and Cassie’s lives and caused Nina’s death.
Cassie is obsessed with her justice plan and has forgotten herself. Little by little she gets closer to the main names that were involved in Nina’s brutal story and begins revenge. When she is about to leave the past behind, guided by Nina’s mother who suggests her to bury the traumas of the past and accept to date Ryan and rebuild her life, a new turning point occurs in the film’s narrative: Ryan also participated in Nina’s sexual abuse. From that point on, the protagonist’s life falls apart and she decides to return with her plan against Nina’s executioners full of anger.
The narrative proposes a discussion about toxic masculinity, sexism and machismo, and the privileges of men that prevail in our contemporary society, but that has been rooted in Western culture for many centuries, in which women who suffer some type of sexual abuse are not heard and treated with due respect, and that the supremacy of an elite of white men who sexually assault women ends up unpunished, because society and justice usually protect them. It’s a structural issue which needs to be debated.
Emerald Fennell leads triumphantly her story in a way that I haven’t ever seen it before to discuss toxic masculinity, feminism and sexism. She blends genres of cinematography as crime, dark comedy, drama and thriller in a harmonic way, with an agile pace, with contemplative takes. The photography direction uses many pallets of colours to tell a dark, grey story. Fennel achieved her goal casting Carey Mulligan for the key role. Her performance is stunning! She manages to play Cassie and her nuances with humanity and truth. “Promising Young Woman” is a tonal roller coaster, but that’s part of the point. Trauma often makes for swings of mood and decision making, and Mulligan and Fennel never forget that Cassie is a traumatized person, taking out her pain on the patriarchal system that enabled it.
Emerald Fennell worked also as an Executive Soundtrack Producer. Composed of 16 songs — including four originals written and developed especially for the film — the Promising Young Woman soundtrack is full of daring, empowering and straight-up fun tracks. It features some pop songs in new musical arrangements and voices such as Britney Spears‘ “Toxic”, “Nothings gonna hurt you baby” by Cigarette After Sex and “It’s raining man” by The Weather Girls, as well as famous songs “Boys” by Charli XCX, and “Stars are blind” by Paris Hilton.
In the final act, when Cassie meets Al, the man responsible for putting Cassie on this spiral of grief and trauma is back in the United States after spending time in London, in his bachelor party, the whole sequence is breathtaking. It’s showtime to Cassie teaches a lesson to the man who destroyed her and Nina’s lives, especially in the scene of the physical clash between Al and Cassie, letting the facts happen uncut, in real-time of 2 minutes, in addition to the climax that is shocking, rare very original. I’m thrilled with the daring way the film ended up Cassie dramatic arc. “Promising Young Woman” is a lesson on male privilege and moral authority.