Opinion: Promising Young Woman is “every woman’s worst nightmare”

It's gritty, darkly hilarious and deathly feminist.

6 mins read

This rape-revenge fantasy has been one of the most anticipated films of the year. Following the echoing remembrances of Sarah Everard, the ‘female existence’ has been in the spotlight as of recent.

Carrey Mulligan stars in Emerald Fennell’s first directorial feature. Hopefully, dare I suggest, dawning on the eve of a new appreciation of a sub-genre. The femme fatale is so often overlooked. However, this film is not mere entertainment; it’s a message wrapped in colourful nail varnish and deviance.

Mulligan’s character is the ice-cold and witty Cassandra, a med-school drop out with a singular goal. Now some people will look at this film and roll their eyes. Cassandra is a woman just touching on her thirties, living at home, and spending her night pretending to be drunk to catch out predators.

Not men: predators.

Image credit: BBC

Those who would secretly prey on indisposed women. It really puts the “nice guy” under the scope for a minute. This makes audiences consider what actually makes a person good. Especially in the wake of the ‘Not All Men’ fiasco that divided the internet.

Spoiler alert: performative actions are not it.

Had this film reckoned with us in the 2010s, it wouldn’t have been well received. Not when singles like Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ were smashing through the charts. Except now cinema is in an age where women have a place of authority.

What’s really effective about this story is that it slowly unravels. It’s not your run of the mill violent vengeful mission, but rather a clever and cunning arc. One where female anger is layered under the feminine aesthetic.

Think pastels instead of bloodshed.

We don’t know straight away why Cassandra is preying on men in clubs. The main factor we’re immediately faced to reckon with is the nature of consent. To challenge audiences on facing the reality of how easy it is for women to be taken advantage of.

However, the characters drive runs a lot deeper. This is not only vengeance for the person Cassandra loved and lost but also for herself. Her baiting pursuit is to avenge her childhood best friend, who was viciously assaulted but never believed.

The film itself is an ode to all victims who have faced similar circumstances. What happened to her friend Nina is abhorrent but the fact that no one believed her story is what’s truly tragic. Not to mention unfortunately not all that unfamiliar for victims across the globe.

Image credit: Empire

Her vengeful path tramples over several other characters: both men and women. Highlighting that women have a role in the sphere of “#MeToo” accusations. That by remaining friends with assaulters you are just as guilty: by not listening to your peers or even trying to find the truth you’re just as bad.

That might sound harsh, but we’re talking about a woman’s worst nightmare here.

Yes, the film is uncomfortable. Some might even call Cassandra’s character a “sociopath” or a “nihilist” but really she’s just a woman with an agenda. No morals, but no one questioned that when it was Bruce Wayne. Because he’s a hero that saves civilians, whereas Cassandra is a woman protecting other women.

What makes Mulligan’s performance come to life is her brutality. She doesn’t give a damn about fairness towards the men or waiting for reasoning. Cassandra only cares about her own agenda and she’s even willing to lure a teenager into her car to achieve it.

Personally, I think it’s a refreshing watch. The film kept me on the edge of my seat with every questionable move Cassandra made. It made my jaw drop at the sincerely shocking moves she made on a chessboard layered in deceit, vengeance, and pain.

Fennell’s A Promising Young Woman is society’s wake up call. Reminding entitled men that they’re not protected by their privilege like they used to be. There are cracks in the foundation of the patriarchy, and characters like Mulligan’s Cassandra will be the ones to tear them open.

Now I’m not going to spoil the ending for you, but I did think it went against the films entire premise. Yet, I annoyingly can’t see another way that it would have come full circle again. My heart broke, my jaw dropped, and my eyes were wide open for every minute of it though.

Featured image credit: NPR

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Deputy Editor of Brig Newspaper. Fourth year journalism and English student at the University of Stirling. Lover of covering social issues and creator of 'The Talk' column for everyone who needs to hear it.

Deputy Editor of Brig Newspaper. Fourth year journalism and English student at the University of Stirling. Lover of covering social issues and creator of 'The Talk' column for everyone who needs to hear it.

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