Cassie (Carey Mulligan) spends her nights pretending to get drunk, allowing men to take her home, then unveiling her sober state as they try to take advantage of her. By day, she sets in motion a series of acts to seek revenge and enact justice on a wrongdoing which has traumatised her for years.
From ‘Promising Young Woman’s’ opening shot of a bunch of men’s air-humping crotches and shaking asses, the traditional cinematic male gaze reversed, you know that this movie aims to provoke. You can’t shake that feeling of being unnerved and on edge throughout the feature. It’s unpredictable and enigmatic, and Carey Mulligan’s incredible lead performance is intoxicating.
As Cassie, Mulligan is unhinged and furious. Her presence is genuinely threatening, which is a description so rarely applied to women. Her character cuts through how such institutions like the law and education fail miserably at protecting women. This is dense subject matter that teaches and promotes discussion, but also, most impressively, really entertains.
Emerald Fennell’s script is so on the nose (“they put themselves in danger”… “Why do women wear so much make-up? Guys don’t like that”…”I thought we had a connection”… “We have to give the boys the benefit of the doubt”… “We were kids”). If she doesn’t win the Oscar for Best Director, Fennell surely has Best Original Screenplay in the bag. It’s an incredible debut, getting increasingly dark and volatile, even with a cool-down middle act. This is a revenge thriller that is sick and tired, and furious at what’s been accepted as the norm for so long. It is armed and ready to burn it all down.
‘Promising Young Woman’ is smart and original, and in spite a frequently bleak perspective, it also uses humour and the soundtrack to great effect. There’s a beautiful colour palette to the film as well, with soft “girly” colours like baby blue and pinks popping up frequently. The supporting cast, most notably Alison Brie, but also Bo Burnham, Laverne Cox, Chris Lowell and Max Greenfield, among others, all play their part to a tee.
There isn’t a doubt that this film will shake and devastate all who come into contact with it, and it’s infuriating to describe a film as “important”, but it is. After much delay, the movie makes its ways to Irish shores via NOW and Sky Cinema – trust this reviewer when she says, it is unmissable.
'Promising Young Woman' is on Sky Cinema and NOW from 16th April.