Today i’m going to be reviewing promising young woman directed by emerald fennel. In the council culture climate of today this film asks uncomfortable questions with an unexpected even tone. So hold your tire iron and hear me out.
Promising Young Woman (2020) Film Review And My Opinion
Promising young woman tells the story of 30 year old Cassie a woman who is traumatized by a past event. She spends her time seeking vengeance against men who continue to take advantage of women.
It’s hard to put this film into words. I sat at my desk for a while just staring at my succulent wondering how to describe, how this film made me feel uncomfortable? Sad, happy, distraught, entertained, awkward, anxious, hopeful and at the same time entirely void of hope.
On the poster there is a quote from we live entertainment who call this film “a game-changing masterpiece”. The ironic thing is that this film is not going to change the game at all. The real-life versions of the men that Cassie is confronting are likely not even going to watch it. Even if they do they’re going to discuss it with the same discourse they use to shift the blame away from their actions.
Instead i think this film will encourage people who are fearful of speaking up to speak up. It becomes very clear in the film that one of the characters in action is just as bad as the actions of others. As a species one of the most dangerous powerful and impactful states we can be in is a united one.
The connotations of the word united are usually positive but as is the case in the film people can unite to do abhorrent things. It’s very hard to stand up against toxic behavior within a group. Because in doing so you are actively removing yourself from the comfort and safety garnet by being in agreement with said group.
This is especially true within the council culture of today where people’s lives are so closely monitored and anyone in a high profile position can be struck off in a matter of hours. Even in the context of this film there was controversy surrounding a review written by Dennis Harvey of variety magazine. In the magazine he expresses that he did not like Carrie mulligan in the role.
The criticisms of him were based on assumptions that did not consider the bigger picture. I have to disagree with Harvey though. I think Carrie Mulligan does an incredible job with the role in conjunction with the excellent writing.
Cassie’s voice strikes a perfect balance in all aspects. Her tone is calm, her actions considered. The questions she asks, the answers she gives, the way she deals with petty rebuttals and toxic masculinity shows an emotional intelligence that i think we can all aspire to.
Yet she isn’t perfect. She is haunted by her past. She struggles to fit in with her peers and she makes mistakes. There were so many moments where the characters could have slipped into stereotype.
Whether film could have become a rom-com or a slasher flick but every single time it surprised me by staying its path with absolute precision. Certainly the marketing of this film sets it up to be this classic revenge story especially with that image of Cassie wearing a suit and those heels in the middle of the street holding a tire iron but it just isn’t that.
Cassie just wants to make people who don’t feel any responsibility understand things from a different perspective. She is testing their emotional growth and whether they can finally accept the part they played in causing the trauma she feels. The film doesn’t just sweep everyone involved under one irredeemable rug.
There is a character that shows remorse and Cassie is consequently just with them. She judges everyone with a degree of empathy and what i would consider fairness. Even when she goes on her manhunts and pretends to be drunk to see how these guys will act.
She gives them an opportunity to own their mistake. Part of me wanted this film to end where director emerald fennel intended it to originally. After the very bleak twist forgoing the somewhat cheesy events after that.
Her financial backers were having none of it. In plenty of other films this gratuitous, let’s make the audience hopeful again ending would be disappointing. However surprisingly in promising young woman it isn’t.
The ending underlines everything that has happened throughout the film. You can watch it and accept it or reject it as a fantasy and that feels like the point. If you’re a hopeful person you can look at it and be reminded of how far society has come as more victims speak out.
On the other hand you can consider how many more people have not spoken up, and how many people still get away with it without consequence, or see it happening without even attempting to stop it.
The cliché of a film putting up a mirror to society comes to mind, just because that is without a doubt what promising young woman does in a thought-provoking and honest way. This will definitely annoy some people.
Fennel describes how two audience members in a test screening got in an argument because one didn’t like a scene, and the other was saying they can leave if they don’t like it. I want to quote a review written from the male perspective which I’ve read on IMDB and really connected with. It’s entitled as a man i needed to see this. The reviewer says “just go see it with your mind open. Don’t think about your own life your ego or status. Let it show you the other side. It can help you understand so much. It can be painful at first but it allows you to have meaningful discussions with your friends. It’s not about you. It’s about the other fifty percent of the world’s population that hadn’t really had a voice before. What a terrifying awesome voice it is. Only to justified.”
People don’t like feeling uncomfortable guilty or attacked, of course. But that’s not the point of this film which is something i feel like myself and the reviewer i quoted have understood. It’s about letting those feelings surface they’re necessary, they’re precisely what Cassie wants, the people that she confronts to experience.
The audience are being confronted with promising young woman. I thoroughly respect the film and its filmmakers for taking such a risky position. Fennel has previously worked as a writer on killing eve season 2. You can recognize that no-nonsense style where every scene has purpose and the dialogue and action is very direct and to the point.
It gives the film an engaging pace that counteracts the simplicity of its setting. There are no big set pieces or exciting destinations to lean on, instead using the cinematography and production design. Information is revealed subtly for example in the dining room of Cassie’s parent’s perfect home, there is imperfect lighting where there’s a light with two orange bulbs and one yellow.
All the phallic flamingo flowers that are in full bloom at the table in the restaurant where Cassie confronts Madison.
The soundtrack and score is also used thoughtfully. Featuring a lot of covers of popular songs such as Britney Spears is TOXIC. The pop playfulness of the original songs remind us of just how promising Cassie and Nina were in their youth. The covers represent just how much their lives have changed since the traumatic event. The lyrics contrast the sun and landscape of Cassie’s mind. Only once in the pharmacy is she truly free of that trauma. This is represented by the pop song being played in its original form.
Overall every inch of a promising young woman is tailored to deliver the best possible cinematic argument against inaction. Its story is brutal but its message is ultimately one of hope. Hope that change can happen when you act right wrongs. Be it by admitting fault and showing weakness or by questioning toxic norms and discussing them openly.
This film may not change the game but it certainly helps pave the path to change.