“Can you guess what every woman’s worst nightmare is?” Promising Young Women Review
April 30, 2022
“Promising Young Woman,” a film that was released in late-2020, is centered around how people respond to sexual assault and how rape culture persists in our comminuity in various ways. This is director Emerald Fennell’s debut, having worked as an actress in several other shows and films before this film.
Cassie Thomas, a former medical student who dropped out due to the rape and suicide of her best friend, Nina Fisher. Fisher was raped by Al Monroe, who assaulted her at a school party. Ever since what happened to her friend, Thomas has been working out of a coffee shop, while occasionally holding men accountable for their crimes involving misogynist actions.
Along the way, she formulates a plan to bring justice to the crime that happened against her best friend, as well as to be able to hold people accountable for said actions. Out of the people she encounters in this plan—her old college friend, the dean of the college she and Nina were in as well as the culprit who assaulted Nina—only one person is truly repentant for their part in the event.
Part of what makes the film so effective is that the characters are in denial as to what happened to Nina or will not take responsibility for their actions in the film. I was blown away by the scene with Dean Walker and Thomas, where when it came to Nina’s sexual assault, the Dean went by the “He said, she said” argument. However, when it came to her daughter, the dean was driven in a instant to find her daughter so as to prevent her from being sexually assaulted.
This film makes for an effective take on how much rape culture permeates throughout several social circles as well as how women, when it comes to situations like rape between a male and a female, will perpetuate this mindset of not taking the situation seriously. Even when it came to seeing the actual perpetrator denying his part in assaulting Nina, it felt hard to look at how much people did not want to see the reality of what had happened.
For those that want to see the film, there are no full-on depictions of sexual assault. There are mentions of sexual assault, gaslighting, suicide and murder. There is an uncomfortable depiction of a murder that is delivered in an unbroken shot throughout the scene. This reviewer can definitely recommend this film to watch over and over again.