This UK’s third coronavirus lockdown has started to ease, with hospitality venues and non-essential retail shops opening up for the first time in months. However, those keen to rush out to watch a movie on the big screen will have to wait a little longer, as cinemas don’t reopen until May.
While we wait for the lights to go back on in the multiplexes, subscription-based streaming services continue to cover the shortfall and entertain us with new movies. Amongst the mix of new movies this week is Promising Young Woman, which has just arrived on Sky and NOW TV.
Directed by Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman is a thriller/black comedy starring Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Jennifer Coolidge, Clancy Brown, Alfred Molina and Laverne Cox. The movie centres around 30-year-old Cassie (played by Mulligan), who is a former medical student on a quest to avenge her best friend, Nina, who was a victim of rape during her college years.
Ever since the incident took place, Cassie has struggled to move forward in life. She fixates on getting revenge against those who assaulted her friend, and spends her evenings ensuring situations like this don’t happen again.
Every night she frequents a bar, pretends to be drunk, and waits for a man to offer to take her home. Then, when the man attempts to take advantage of her supposed drunken state, Cassie reveals that she is completely sober and aware of their actions – making them take stock of the line they are about to cross.
But things start to change for Cassie, when she reconnects with Ryan – a former classmate, who shows a genuine interest in her and appears to be very different to the men she frequently encounters. And as Ryan and Cassie get close, Cassie has to rethink her nightly activities, as well as her plan for revenge.
Promising Young Woman has a very interesting premise, and one which throws the spotlight on a subject which needs continual conversation – that of predatory behaviour. It opens up a dialogue by exploring the ways in which sexual predators act, and the ways in which they often get away with their crimes because of institutions that turn a blind eye.
It does all this through the eyes of Cassie – she effectively puts herself in dangerous situations, in order to bring this behaviour to the forefront, and it is through her actions that potential crimes are exposed. She goes out to bars to encounter predators, to regain control of the night, because she believes that if she doesn’t, no one else will – and sadly, she has a point.
Cassie is strong, determined, and very formidable. She is the driving force behind this movie, and she is played to perfection by Carey Mulligan.
Mulligan’s performance is what makes this movie work as well as it does. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good movie, which feels very relevant in 2021, but it is Mulligan who makes it shine.
The actress manages to balance both the dark and sometimes light elements of the story (this is a black comedy after all), conveys the central message, and never loses control of her character. She continually pushes the movie forward, becomes a force to be reckoned with, and gets to demonstrate different sides to Cassie in the process.
Mulligan has been nominated for Best Actress at the forthcoming Academy Awards and regardless of whether she wins the award or not, I believe she delivers everything she needs to and more in Promising Young Woman. This is an assured performance and one which is a highlight of the picture.
As for the rest of the movie, Promising Young Woman is pretty solid stuff. It knows what it wants to do, unravels its story at a good pace, and includes a great collection of supporting actors. The film also boasts a superb soundtrack, which manages to revive a long-forgotten Paris Hilton song from the mid-‘00s, and even chucks in a Spice Girls tune for good measure.
Mulligan is the stand-out element, but everything about this movie works. It walks a fine line between serious content and some tongue-in-cheek moments, but it delivers.