allain’s review published on Letterboxd:
Can you guess what every woman’s worst nightmare is?
The destructive effect of trauma was evidently examined in Emerald Fennell’s directorial debut Promising Young Woman, by introducing us to Cassie, a medical school dropout with an intent of teaching the ‘nice guys’ not to take advantage of inebriated women, in a manner that will definitely shake the drunken men to their core. The film began with a demonstration on how Cassie operates, by shifting the predator-prey dynamic once a man attempts to do something inappropriate while she’s ‘drunk,’ showing her vigilante behavior by scarring men into not doing it again. But the black-comedy, revenge-thriller film is just getting started, as it gradually uncovers the reason behind it all in explosive revelations that will definitely put anyone on the edge of their seats.
Without delving too much into detail, the film explored the sensitive topic of sexual abuse and the fallibility of presumption of innocence when it comes to these specific cases. It showed how often professionals and strangers-alike tend to not believe the victim and instead protect the predator. The constant dismissal of a victim’s testimony because ‘accusations like that happens all the time’ perpetuates a problematic idea that will make every sexual assault victim hesitant into coming out because no one would take them seriously. Although the movie presented the extremities of such a case, it is still not that detached from reality and a conversation must be started nonetheless. The topic is extremely heavy and there are a lot of nuances and variables that must be considered, and although I think the film is lacking on certain parts, it still revealed a perspective that should be seen and heard.
The bright and colorful cinematography hides the dark and disturbing subject matter in a way that it is somewhat reflective of how institutions pretend to act like everything’s fine and under control in such sensitive cases like this. The meticulous choosing of music score and soundtrack tremendously helped in both alleviating and intensifying the stress throughout the film, setting an all-time exhilarating experience during its climactic fourth act. Carey Mulligan absolutely embodied her role as Cassie, portraying a picture-perfect misunderstood sociopath with unhealed traumatic wounds. Although there are so much room for improvement, Emerald Fennell still delivered a film that is promising in opening such precarious topics that must be discussed.
Note: I also tried to write a review with little to no spoiler that isn’t included in the trailers released as much as possible because I don’t want to spoil the good, yet controversial parts of the film. As much as it is polarizing, please watch it still and not let my review sway you into not giving it a try.