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Promising Young Woman - Film Review

A young woman traumatised by a horrific event in her past seeks out vengeance on those who have harmed in the past and are likely to harm again. A debut by Emerald Fennell who won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay but was it really that good?

This was a film that I had seen advertised a lot but actually, knew very little about so as soon as I got a chance, I watched it on Now TV. The story follows Cassandra, who is living at home with her parents and working in a local cafe after dropping out of medical school. To the outside world. she appears to be a failure, but when nightfall comes, she pursues her 'mission'.

Cassandra goes to a nightclub and pretends to be drunk to the point where she can hardly stand and waits for men to approach her. As they try to take advantage, she reveals to the predators that she is in fact completely sober, with the aim of terrifying them into not doing such things again.

This 'mission' of hers stems from the tragedy of her friend being sexually assaulted whilst at university. Cassandra then runs into Ryan, someone from her class, and hears the name of the man that sexually assaulted her best friend. Thus begins the real story of vengeance where Cassandra goes after everyone who had wronged her friend and plans to ruin their lives, leaving them with some kind of similar trauma her friend had experienced.

This film was fantastic. It's a heavy topic to deal with but the writer did a fantastic job of making it watchable. As an audience, we do not have to bear witness to such horrific acts but we are aware of the weight it carries. which is all we need.

I read a lot of criticism towards the main character, Cassandra which felt unjustified. She's not that likable because she's damaged. That's the point. This event is consuming her life, and she is trying to right a wrong even though that doesn't change what happened to her friend. It goes for almost any kind of trauma. If we don't receive proper help, we may not process it in the healthiest way and it can lead us to destroy ourselves.

One of my favourite themes was seeing how so many people brush off sexual assault given the circumstances and how we are all probably guilty of doing so unless it happens to us or someone we love. We see this event breaking Cassandra, but others who were involved at the time come up with so many justifications that feel so real. There are no clear villains but we see how doing nothing to help those who need it can be so wrong.

Another fantastic thing to see was this concept of people never really changing. Once you know that somebody is capable of something, there's no coming back from it. I would like to believe that people can change for the better but it is also true that the majority of people who do bad things. just become better at hiding it.

The only negative I have is that it's never made clear how Cassandra deters these guys in the nightclub from doing it again. The setup makes it feel like she will hurt them but she never does, nor does she ruin their reputation so it feels a bit pointless. However, my interpretation is that she isn't being rational so how can she be expected to be calculated with what she is doing? But, I do understand why it's frustrating to some.

Overall, it's a fantastic film with a few major twists and an unpredictable ending. The pace is perfect and the acting is pretty good (there are some awkward exchanges but I'm guessing it's intentional). It's not particularly heavy to watch and is in fact, somewhat uplifting. It's a film that makes you question yourself more than society as well as inspiring people to be better.

My rating - 8.5/10

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