Arts & Entertainment

A bittersweet revenge tale in “Promising Young Woman”

Carey Mulligan stars in an exciting new revenge thriller.

The film industry has for a long time been a place where women are clearly objectified and pushed to the side to fill the spots of secondary characters. Thankfully, films are evolving for the better and letting new and important topics take center stage. 

In the backdrop of a sleazy, neon soaked, candy-coated city, “Promising Young Woman,” directed by Emerald Fennell, features Carey Mulligan as Cassandra Thomas as she takes revenge on those who have hurt her.

Thomas is first introduced to the audience as a true femme fetale. Every night she’ll go to clubs and act like she’s drunk and every night some guy will act like a “nice guy” to take her back to his apartment only to find out that he’s in for a humiliating surprise. 

The viewer then comes to learn that she works at a coffee shop despite going to medical school. She then runs into a past colleague, Ryan — played by Bo Burnhan — who she starts to develop a serious relationship with. This event leads her to uncover the truth about her past colleagues and what they did to her best friend, Nina Fischer, which begins her revenge story. 

Overall, the movie’s shining aspect is it’s way of portraying the revenge story. There are a lot of twists and turns that don’t appear in many other films aside from older hits such as “I spit on your grave” (1978) or even “Kill Bill” (2003). 

However, some elements, such as the love story between Cassandra and Ryan, were as cliche and lackluster as they get with montages between the two that many would come to expect to see in any movie that features two lovers. Without giving away too much, they do attempt to skew the audience’s expectations near the end but Ryan’s purpose as a character gets lost in the final stretch of the film as he becomes more of a bystander. It doesn’t help that I personally don’t find Burnham’s comedic work to be funny, which is something that the film rides on that causes these scenes to be painful at times.

One of the only aspects that saves these scenes is how they look. The movie itself looks amazing with a lot of attention to detail when it comes to colors and lighting. Key objects and areas of each frame look as though they are coated in candy while the lighting itself is drenched in a tasteful 80s neon. Usually the 80s aesthetic is overdone, but here it serves a real purpose other than just looking cool. It coincides with the overall look of the film and is a possible allusion to it’s exploitation predecessors.

There are some very serious themes and topics that this movie touches on relating to rape culture. The direction that Fennell took in this movie was great. The topics, as serious as they are, are handled with a lot of care and attention. The film doesn’t get too explicit but there are some very heavy scenes in which very serious topics, such as sexual abuse, are either implied or heard. 

Even though this movie clearly takes a more pessimistic approach to it’s themes, the film lacks any type of real catharsis towards the end. It seems that the film’s ending has garnered a lot of controversy ranging from praise to outright hate. Whether or not “justice” is served towards the end could vary depending on whether the viewer is convinced that law enforcement will be competent enough to do the right thing. Everything in the movie works towards pointing at them being unable to carry out any deserved justice. 

Overall, despite some of its flaws, “Promising Young Women” is a great take on its themes and deserves at least a watch even if you may or may not agree with the ending.

Availability: Currently available for purchase and streaming.

Title: Promising Young Woman

Star Rating: Four out of five stars


  • Nuanced take on relationships today
  • Art direction and overall cinematography
  • Allusions and motifs are portrayed with care 


  • Lackluster love interest and story 
  • Lacks catharsis