Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Promising Young Woman (2020)

Promising Young Woman

Directed by: Emerald Fennell Runtime: 1 hr 53 min Rated:

Studio: Focus Features Screenwriters: Emerald Fennell

Promising Young Woman is creatively colorful as it is visceral in its exploration into double standards and accountability. Holding a light into the dark standards and practices of not just people but also institutions and their role in sexual abuse and rape. Carey Mulligan’s portrayal of Cassandra is a revenge PSA (public service announcement) worthy of award nominations. 

Two lines in the trailer showing a heavily intoxicated Cassandra are:

“You know they put themselves in danger, girls like that.”

“You think you’d learn by that age, right?”

They are prime examples of the double standards and accountability this film is exploring. The existing culturally accepted norm that a girl or woman can be taken advantage of is her fault. 

Another set of lines are:

“I’m not the only one who didn’t believe it.” – Woman

“We get accusations like this all the time.” – Woman

These words coming from other women are equally disturbing because it highlights the denial and permission, by default, women give to men when women ignore or don’t speak up for others. Witnessing and staying silent helps no one, and Casandra is anything but silent in her mission to obliterate these accepted practices by so-called “nice guys.” 

Emerald Fennell and Carey Mulligan created and depict a beautifully crafted character with survivor guilt in Cassandra. In most movies, when a woman experiences this type of violence, it’s ignored, or a man gets revenge. It’s refreshing to see a woman take back control, even in the extreme. Cassandra going out at night like she does is dangerous. I’m not ignoring that. It’s also celebratory because it’s shown in a raw and honest manner with a pinch of humor. 

Promising Young Woman Official Trailer, Focus Features via YouTube

That humor, dark that it is, will not appeal to everyone. There were nine other people at the showing my theater had; five of those were men. A few women laughed a little; the men, unsurprisingly, did not. If anything, I was too loud when I laughed, and it had nothing to do with the empty theater. It just resonated with me, like it will for far too many. It’s not a film that only those who have survived rape will understand. This film is for the friends and family of such people. Those left behind after a suicide. The parents of every child. 

It’s an avenue into conversations about being a good person and what safe really means, and proper consent. Promising Young Woman really highlights the experiences women face in a centralized manner. It’s very to the point. Additionally, it shows how the process of acceptance and healing in the aftermath can take more time than many people are comfortable with. Cassandra’s parents don’t see it; they just see a 30-year old living at home.

Cassandra had been a medical student, that’s years of her life dedicated to a specific path. One event changed her course. She was a promising young woman full of potential, like many other women full of promising potential. I know it’s a movie review, but for context, in 2020, according to, there were 84,767 reported incidents of rape in the United States alone. So many, too many, are not reported each year. Al Monroe, played by Chris Lowell, says, “It’s every guy’s worst nightmare getting accused like that.” Cassandra replies, “Can you guess what every woman’s worst nightmare is?”  

This film will anger people, specifically males, and that’s okay. Mulligan’s take on Cassandra is bright, fun, twisted, raw, smart, and unapologetic. It’s hard to come up with an ending to a film topic like this, and Fennell doesn’t disappoint. This film should be on your watch list for sure. 

-a pen lady