• Angus McGregor

‘Promising Young Woman’ Review


Promising Young Woman is one of a whole roster of films that’s release has been scuppered due to the pandemic and closures of cinema. Premiering at Sundance in January 2020, the film was met with a great reception, instantly creating an abundance of hype for impatient filmgoers such as myself. Unfortunately, most of the world would have to wait quite some time before being able to watch this film but it was certainly worth the delay as Emerald Fennell’s directorial debut is harrowingly excellent.

Scheduled to release early last year, the subject matter of sexual assault and the general treatment of women is sadly even more relevant than it were at the intended date. This topic is of course going to garner a lot of attention and debate, especially with how brutally honest Fennell depicts it. Fennell doesn’t hold back at all in showing the grim reality that these horrible acts have, not only on the immediate victim but those around them. With this, we also see the depressing side of humanity, with scarily accurate excuses and actions to warrant certain behaviours of themselves, peers or just random individuals in general, even when faced with damming evidence that could make a huge difference. This aspect of the film is of course very bleak with an incredible amount of realism that creates an uncomfortable setting, placing you directly into the shoes of Carey Mulligan’s Cassie. There will be certain aspects that people don’t agree with within these moments but it can’t be denied that the film is thought provoking in the correct ways, providing some alternative viewpoints to the usual opinions. For this reason, the film holds a great importance as it showcases the issues and hypocrisies that we are troubled with in this issue.

Based on the previous paragraph, you’d be surprised to hear that this film isn’t one that is all doom and gloom. Yes, it is tough to watch and is incredibly bleak at times but Fennell manages to create this strange contrast of tones that somehow works tremendously. In amongst the general social commentary, you have everything that you would want from a rom-com, especially in terms of laughs and feel good moments. The relationship between Cassie and Bo Burnham’s Ryan is the strongest aspect of this film with incredible writing bringing great depth to these characters whilst relating to the subject matter and developing a natural relationship. There’s plenty of highs and lows within their interactions that work tremendously well with Fennell’s writing truly shining here. It is one of the best screenplays in some time due to how it manages to weave all these aspects to one another, drawing the correct emotions and provoking thought whilst making the film a strangely enjoyable one, even though there’s a fair amount of discomfort.

Carey Mulligan deserves a huge amount of credit for her performance in this film as she is tremendous from start to finish. There is a lot of weight on her shoulders to convey this complicated character who is equally as charming and funny as she is quite frightening. She excels in each scene, capturing the characters psyche perfectly in every situation, whether that be on her vengeful trips or opening up as the Cassie that existed pre the tragedy. There’s a great balance from her in this role which is aided by some brilliant supporting roles, most particularly Burnham and a couple of cameos from Alfred Molina. This film really is a quality combined effort as Fennell’s debut is aided tremendously by brilliant cinematography, score and soundtrack and costumes. Everything is so vibrant and full of personality with a great slickness to each and every scene, with Fennell really shining as a director in feature debut.

The ending of this film has the possibility to make or break this film for a lot of people, with a really tough ending that will really get audiences thinking. It is hard to talk about it without spoiling but I feel it works in the correct ways, even if it isn’t the most satisfying one that people would be hoping for.

Promising Young Woman isn’t a perfect film but it covers all the bases that I want to see in a film. It’s brave with a clear point to make and is relentless in doing so, all the whilst it manages to create a thoroughly entertaining and vibrant picture. It is a stunning debut and one of my most favourite films in recent times, to the point where I’ve now watched it twice over the last two days. There’s a lot to take from this film, whether it be the artistic styles displayed on screen or the conversation it creates which for me, is the best thing a film can do.

Final Rating: 5/5

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