Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman ★★★½

Behind its colorful aura and easy-going attitude, Promising Young Woman hides the trauma left behind by society’s indifference towards sexual assault, as it follows Cassie, a med school dropout who has made a point out of teaching the “nice guys” a lesson.

Every night, she puts on a drunken performance and goes home with the first guy nice enough to offer to give her a lift. She waits patiently through self-absorbed speeches and “nice guy” nonsense, and once he makes his first move, she strikes, dropping the act. Cassie’s vigilante streak is gratifying, simply because it shows a woman taking back her agency in the worst possible scenario for a night out. Carey Mulligan is fantastic in the role as well, relishing the power she’s been given and the coolness of her character.

But Cassie’s vigilantism is only training for something much bigger. As it progresses, Promising Young Woman slowly reveals the motivation of its character, delving into more personal territory. With each new revelation, Cassie moves closer and closer to enacting vengeance upon those who have wronged her best friend, a victim of sexual abuse promptly silenced after speaking up against her abuser. She is on a downward spiral, which prompts cheap tactics and questionable behavior, but the film is unforgiving as it sheds light on an entire system of enablers that cover up and dismiss accusations, favoring the abuser over the victim.

Cassie continues her journey to vengeance in the final act, turning towards the abuser. Countless reviews have said that the ending will be polarizing, and I find myself… conflicted. Keeping details vague, the ending of Promising Young Woman is its greatest twist and its most gratifying moment. It builds up fury and then slides into release. While I admire the boldness of its twist, it seems to me that the film tried to distance itself from Cassie in its final moments, choosing an outdated route that would make it easy to dismiss her entire journey.

Ultimately, Promising Young Woman is an enthralling experience. Its vibrant shell catches your eye and holds your attention, as it slowly brings the pain in its heavy subject matter to the surface, exploring it with a (mostly) unapologetic forcefulness. Treading a fine line between admiration and reprehension, it left me somewhat in two minds, but it is a film that is absolutely worth a watch and a discussion.

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