Promising Young Woman: Revenge Tastes So…

Welcome to my first post in a new mini-series! I keep finding myself in situations where I don’t have any films I can speak passionately about, so I thought it could be fun to assess some of my favorites from the past! I am hoping to have at least one article like this up every weekend. Wildcard Weekend is what I’m thinking of calling it! Now, let’s get to the film with that out of the way.

There is nothing more sweetly sour like revenge. I like to think of myself as a generally good and kind person, but I can’t deny the satisfaction that comes with the villainous act. Yes, it feels oh-so-good, but beware of the poisonous undertones laced within. With the correct dosage, it can be deadly for everyone involved. Emerald Fennel (who penned the Oscar winning screenplay as well as directed the film) explores how the need for justice can sink its teeth in much too deep in her 2020 feature film directorial debut, Promising Young Woman. Gender roles are brought into play as a young woman seeks vengeance for those who wronged her, both in the past and present. What is left in the end makes this a cautionary tale for the ages. 

Please be aware the film discusses topics of assault and suicide. These themes will also be discussed throughout this article. Please proceed with caution.

Cassandra is a regular patron of local bars and clubs. While other customers are buying drinks and dancing to catchy electronic songs, Cassie doesn’t touch a drop of booze. Yet she is always drunk by the time a “nice” guy takes notice. When these “nice” guys reveal ulterior motives, Cassie strikes like a viper. As the story progresses, we realize that Cassie’s best friend, Nina, had killed herself after being violently assaulted in college. Nobody believed Nina, as she was drunk, but Cassie stood by her until the sudden end. When the so-called friends from her past resurface, a plan is set into motion. Cassie is determined to help those who hurt her friend feel the exact same pain Nina did. Unfortunately, she becomes blinded by understandable rage, which causes her to be blind to the ideals of moving forward. Can she find it in herself to come to terms with moving forward, or will her own criminal acts bring her down? I will let you find out for yourself. 

Sexual assault is a weighty topic. Movies like I Spit On Your Grave and Last House On The Left are two examples of more violent and gory revenge plots. Fennell’s take on the “trope” sees our so-called protagonist putting offenders into situations where the same fear Nina carried can be felt instead of physical harm.  This tactic works well as it helps to elevate the idea that Cassie doesn’t want them dead but does want others to understand. While she doesn’t go about it in the best way, it is still powerful. Being someone who has experienced sexual harassment, though not to the degree showcased, it was nice to see a character who wanted retribution but also had some sense of morality and could tell the difference between her version of good and evil.

With an excellent cast headed by a powerful Carrie Mulligan and a quick-moving plot, there is never a dull moment. While it does slow down in spots, it is only to progress the story in ways that can only be told right when paired with lower amounts of energy. Those moments may not move at the speed of sound but are detrimental to the character’s story arc. I cannot recommend this film any more than I already have. I would make sure you are really comfortable with the content before viewing. There are scenes and moments that could be deeply upsetting. Please be warned. Have a good night ;).

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