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Promising Young Woman

Challenging The Genre

13 March

“a fresh, totally wild, revenge thriller with bite.”
Kate Erbland, INDIEWIRE

A standout at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Promising Young Woman reinvigorates the revenge thriller and delivers a darkly-comic social commentary that subverts expectations to the last frame.

Carey Mulligan – in a career highlight – stars as Cassandra Thomas, a thirty-year-old medical school drop-out living at home with her worried parents and working at a coffee shop. Driven to vigilante action after her best friend is sexually assaulted, Cassandra begins to take down men who are taking advantage of drunk women at bars and, after her friend’s assaulter reemerges, crafts a plan to enact revenge on him and those who protected him.

The feature debut for writer/director Emerald Fennel (Killing Eve, The Crown), Promising Young Woman audaciously marries heavy subject matter with comedic relief as the film shifts through tone to deliver its unique point of view. One way the film achieves this is by utilizing the audiences’ relationship to pop-culture. The familiar faces of Adrian Brody, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Max Greenfield, and Chris Lowell – and the natural associations of their ‘nice-guy’ characters – are flipped on their heads as their dark predatory behaviour is depicted.  It’s sobering as the film is clear in its convictions and voices a direct and unapologetic point of view that is righteous and entertaining.

Fennel also uses hyper-feminine aesthetics to incredible fruition. The dark thematic exploration is maintained with a candy-coloured palette full of floral prints and bright colours that add a level of authenticity and empowerment to the darkness hiding just beneath the surface. Most notably is the use of music, which is scored with a combination of breathtaking old-Hollywood-inspired orchestral pieces paralleled with contemporary pop music, allowing the film to deliver unexpected story and character moments.

Carey Mulligan shines in her performance, utilising her smile as a weapon and exuding both an electrifying confidence and vulnerability. She ultimately embodies a fully-realised portrait of a person exhausted, wounded, and enraged by a culture of toxic masculinity. Cassandra is a victim but as her morality is pushed to the edge it becomes a testament to Mulligan’s charisma that we almost want her to step over it. She re-inspires the conventional heroine with a contemporary lens and a character that feasts upon decades of ingrained and ignored abusive behaviour.

Promising Young Woman creates jaw-dropping moments and unexpected shocks that push every notion of convention we have come to expect from conventional revenge thriller cinema, with Fennel offering something wholly unique that dares us to enjoy ourselves.

Promising Young Woman will be at Palace Cinemas in 2020.

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