Life & Culture

Film review: Promising Young Woman

This BAFTA-winning #MeToo revenge drama impresses Linda Marric


Emerald Fennell’s BAFTA-winning debut feature Promising Young Woman stars Carey Mulligan as a troubled woman out for revenge after losing her best friend to painful tragedy. Written by Fennell, this darkly comedic #MeToo story had its debut at Sundance in 2020 and has since been nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress for Mulligan.

By day Cassie (Mulligan) is a barista at a trendy cafe in her hometown where she still lives with her parents (played by by Clancy Brown and Jennifer Coolidge). By night, she trawls local bars and nightclubs terrorising predatory young men who prey on drunk girls.

After a chance meeting with charming former college friend Ryan (played impeccably by Bo Burnham), Cassie is almost ready to move on from the dark episode that has consumed her life since her early twenties. The two hit it off almost instantly, but then a shocking revelation leads her towards a dangerous path.

Promising Young Woman cleverly mixes romantic comedy tropes with more serious issues to give us one of the most complex #MeToo narratives we’ve seen so far. Fennell’s ability, at 35, to navigate both genres makes her into one of the most astute and accomplished filmmakers of her generation.

Fennel’s film features an unabashedly pop heavy soundtrack - a sequence which sees Ryan and Cassie singing along to a Paris Hilton hit from the early noughties is one of the most exhilarating moments in cinema. Elsewhere, there’s a lot to be said for the inspired casting of classic nice guys Adam Brody, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Chris Lowell as the abusers in Cassie’s crosshairs.

Overall, Promising Young Woman is on mission to right some wrongs and it does it in style. Even if some will find the heightened reality in which it lives a little jarring, Fennell has definitely put her own stamp on this highly unusual revenge story.

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