Promising Young Woman tells the story of med-school drop-out, Cassie who turns thirty whilst living at home, working at a coffee shop with no social life or aspirations of one. Her sole mission is avenging her life long friend, Nina who experienced every woman’s worst nightmare. Every week, Cassie goes to a bar, acts extremely drunk and waits for a predator to make a move, upon which she ‘comes to’, revealing her sober state, giving the creeps quite the fright – to teach them a lesson. An unorthodox method, yet not totally dismissible. In putting herself in a fly-on-the wall situation , she learns the methodology of the apparent ‘nice guys’. The notion of what these guys were about to do is thrown so vividly in their face, they cannot handle this truth and flee from the situation.
The film has the potential to be very divisive in its overarching message about men. However, I would urge anyone to separate this from a generalised/worldview of men and see it a document of a lived reality by so many women, who have experienced the exact same situations that the film explores.
Instead of seeing the film as overtly ‘male-hating’ with no redeemable male character, consider the ways that the film highlights the subtleties of both gendered behavior patterns.
I read the film as a spirit. Nina’s soul has not yet fully been put to rest. First, Cassie must make the rounds, analogous to a spirit’s journey after death. Across many religions and cultures, it is believed that the soul continues to wander the earth for another 40 days after the initial death. During this time, it is considered that the soul revisits significant places from the person’s life. What Cassie does is equivalent by taking on the tangibility of this form.
Director Emerald Fennell is so exciting! From playing Patsy in Call the Midwife, to depicting Camilla Parker Bowles in The Crown, to writing season two of Killing Eve, to her short film directorial, ‘Careful How You Go’ to putting the soul destroying reality of sexual abuse on blast in Promising Young Woman – what an unstoppable and exciting force in the industry!
Casting such well known actors such as; Max Greenfield, Adam Brody, Christopher Mintz-Plasse as undercover sleaze bags with the nice-guy façade really amplifies what the film is trying to tell us. We’ve seen these actors in multiple Hollywood pictures over the years, so much so we feel like we know them. After seeing Max Greenfield play the loveable douche bag in New Girl makes his role in Promising Young Women that must off-putting. To see Hollywood’s loveable’s together in one film with one common denominator, their gumption to take advantage of women, we feel the reality of women’s experience with ‘nice guys’ in their real lives.
The film allows you to sink into the rom-com genre, then flips it completely into a psychological thriller. A dark drama emerges having lurked beneath throughout its entirety and at the end you’re left feeling totally flabbergasted. The film is anything but predictable.
Although we watch films as a form of escapism as well as wanting a slight element of relatability, I think it’s important to consider the lengths we need to go for justice. To fight violence against women, we don’t need to sacrifice anything, not least ourselves. Promising Young Woman teeters on the edge of these two elements we expect from film. With a stunning set design and colour palette, the film is visually stunning to watch, which makes the revelations catch you even more off guard.
Its dynamic power works well to start a conversion, not too dissimilar to Michaela Coel’s ‘I May Destroy You’. I hope many more productions will aim to do put those jarring aspects on the screen because there is a beauty in the skill of delivering something that makes us squirm in discomfort as well as piss ourselves laughing.