Promising Young Woman (2020)—Emerald Fennell’s Directorial Debut Is A Dark Thrill Ride Of Revenge

One of the films that I’ve been waiting to see since I saw its initial trailer is Promising Young Woman. From that first trailer, I knew that this film would be a fun ride from beginning to end, and I am happy to say my intuition was correct. Emerald Fennell, who has previously only acted and written for television, delivers a knockout of a directorial debut in this film, and brings thrills, twists, and a scary protagonist that you root for on her quest for revenge in this film that brings yet another great film to close out the 2020 movie releases.

Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman (2020). Via Focus Features

Promising Young Woman follows Cassandra, played by Carey Mulligan, a woman who has been traumatized by the sexual assault on her childhood best friend while they were both in medical school. After the event, Cassandra drops out of school and makes it her mission to find the scummiest men and make sure they never forget to ask for consent again. While at her day job, her former classmate Ryan, played by Bo Burnham, reappears in her life and inadvertently sets her on a one way path of revenge against all of those who either assaulted or ignored the assault of her friend.

I will say, this film is not a “Best Picture” type of film, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not incredibly entertaining. Even though the overall idea behind the film is a bit shallow, the plot does throw in tons of fun twists and turns that makes up for it. With the dark humor and tension filled scenes scattered throughout the movie, you will be at the edge of your seat wondering what turn Mulligan’s character is going to take next, and the character of Cassandra is surprisingly complex as she is always a step ahead of everyone else while also resigning to her own pain to the point where she doesn’t do anything except trap unsuspecting predators late at night. She is extremely tragic and scary and is a fantastic character to weave us through the story.

Alison Brie in Promising Young Woman (2020). Via Focus Features

By and large the best part of this film is Carey Mulligan’s performance in the lead. She makes the tragic, scary character of Cassie extremely fun to watch. Even when her character is doing something so grotesquely wrong, Mulligan’s performance, in tandem with the Fennell’s script, makes you root for the character throughout the entire film. Other notable performances are Bo Burnham and Alison Brie who both play their respective roles fantastically and bring different aspects to their characters and the plot points they are a part of that really make those moments memorable.

Overall, this movie was a really enjoyable watch. By no means is it game changing, but as a directorial debut, Fennell delivers a dark, yet fun watch that you won’t regret taking the time or spending the money to check it out. Between Fennell’s script, great characters, and a fantastic lead in Carey Mulligan Promising Young Woman is sure to delight.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.


Promising Young Woman is rated R for strong violence including sexual assault, language throughout, some sexual material and drug use.

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