Film Review: PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN (2020): A Topical, Fierce Film and a Career Best Performance by Carey Mulligan

Carey Mulligan Bo Burnham Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman Review

Promising Young Woman (2020) Film Review, a movie directed by Emerald Fennell, and starring Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Gabriel Oliva, and Connie Britton.

Writer/Director Emerald Fennell’s new film Promising Young Woman proves to be one of 2020’s most effective films and showcases a career best performance by Carey Mulligan (of 2013’s The Great Gatsby remake).



Rarely does a movie steamroll the audience with such a compelling plot as the one found in Fennell’s new masterpiece which takes the revenge thriller to new heights and beyond.

As the film opens, we see an apparently drunk woman (Mulligan) at a bar being discussed by some men. One of the men proceeds to take her home thinking she’s an easy score but the woman turns the tables on him when she turns out not to be totally wasted. In fact, she’s fully aware of what’s going on and has an agenda of her own to carry out.

Mulligan’s character Cassie is at the centerpiece of the film. An ex medical student who carries a tormented past, she works at a coffee shop where she encounters an old student acquaintance of hers, Ryan (Bo Burnham). They eventually begin to date and, herein, lies the unpredictability of the plot. Is Cassie’s alternate agenda (which involves a revenge scenario) a barrier to her finding true happiness with Ryan? Or are the characters more complex than that?

The supporting cast is uniformly first rate with Alison Brie as Madison, another former student acquaintance of Cassie’s, standing out. In Brie’s major scene in the picture, she goes for lunch with Cassie and finds herself caught in a conversation about a very hot topic. Cassie is looking to settle a score here and Brie is completely caught off guard thinking she’s just there to visit an old friend.

Another notable performance is that of Connie Britton (The Brothers McMullen) as Dean Walker. This woman is in charge at the college where something unspeakable happened to a friend of Cassie’s years earlier and Mulligan and Britton play off each other like masters of the acting game as this scene eventually unveils the possibility that Cassie has done something to the Dean’s teenage daughter.

Burnham delivers an intriguing performance as Cassie’s love interest as the audience constantly questions whether Cassie can love again and whether or not Ryan is as sincere as he seems on the surface. Cassie and Ryan’s relationship is one of the most intriguing aspects of the film.

As the film reaches its unsettling climax, the audience is always intrigued and Mulligan is the reason why. Her Cassie is complex and Mulligan’s vulnerability on screen should have won her the Academy Award at Oscar time. Mulligan, the actress, certainly disappears into the role and becomes Cassie. In one particular scene, her character is confronted by an angry driver on the road. Cassie’s unpredictability and fierce vulnerability is a result of her unwillingness to accept the past and her need for closure in regards to what had happened.

This film’s theme of the past always haunting us as human beings is well conveyed on screen. Fennell’s writing and direction rarely hits a false note. If you think some of the men early in the picture act unbelievably, don’t be fooled! Fennell has good reasons for her characters to behave as they do. While the plot plays out like a thriller, it leaves plenty open for discussion afterwards. There are enough meaty topics to keep people talking for days as a matter of fact.

At the end, Promising Young Woman speaks volumes about topics that need to be addressed in today’s society. The fact that the movie plays out so well is a testament to the great combination of Fennell and Mulligan’s work here. This is one of 2020’s best films.

Rating: 10/10

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