Promising Young Woman
Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Laverne Cox, Connie Britton, Adam Brody
Carey Mulligan gives a ferocious performance in this candy-coloured but blackly comic thriller, the debut feature of British writer-director Emerald Fennell. One of the first female-made films to take on the #MeToo era, it explores the possibilities of female agency in these matters, albeit through the prism of violence, and powerfully shows up the continuing inadequacies in the way contemporary society all too often responds to accusations of sexual violence and rape.
Despite once being a ‘promising young woman’, Cassie (Mulligan) leads a quiet existence as a barista since dropping out of medical school; chatting away the days with her friendly boss Gail (Laverne Cox). However, the way she spends her evenings reveals a seething vendetta. Men who cross her path are in serious danger, as she seeks to heal from past trauma by doling out brutal lessons. But when Ryan (Bo Burnham), a former classmate, re-enters her life, so too does the possibility of healing – until new details about the death of her best friend infuriate Cassie anew, inspiring her most potent confrontation yet.
Fennell isn’t taking any prisoners here, and nor is Mulligan. Her Cassie is righteously angry and sometimes unlikable, offering a refreshing corrective to the ‘rape revenge’ genre’s tendency to offer up submissive, appealing victims; she is doing it on her own terms, having been failed by any other possible system of justice. Confidently marrying bleak subject matter with comic lightness, Promising Young Woman feels like an important new film in the #MeToo canon, one that will spark anger and debate and will resonate powerfully with anyone who has had their life changed forever by sexual violence.