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Promising Young Woman

 Carey Mulligan stars as Cassie in the provocative film, Promising Young Woman (2020), exploring themes of sexual assault, revenge, and societal accountability. #PromisingYoungWoman #CareyMulligan #Film #SexualAssault #Revenge #SocialJustice

Promising Young Woman: Unveiling the Dark Realities of Sexual Assault and Vengeance

One of the edgiest films to emerge in recent years is the topical and shocking Promising Young Woman (2020). The story unfolds through the eyes of honest, rough-edged Cassie (Carey Mulligan), and its unflinching look at the reality of sexual assault and the institutions that ignore it has been largely ignored by the studios in Hollywood. Directed by Emerald Fennell and inspired by Fennell’s own experiences as a Harvard undergraduate and British barrister during the Me Too and gross BC scandals of the #BrosAboutBrocks era, Promising Young Woman has already earned Fennell an Academy Award for its script and near nominations for Mulligan in the Best Actress category and for Fennell in the Best Director category. This article considers the themes and impact on audiences and critics alike.

Unveiling the Narrative:

At its most basic level, Promising Young Woman (2020) is a revenge thriller, with a one-or should that be ‘two’-hander feminist twist. Its aggrieved heroine is Cassandra (Carey Mulligan), masquerading by day as ‘that nice girl, that free spirit, that girl who just has a little too much fun’. But at night, she’s a vigilante enacting vigilante justice on behalf of the survivors of sexual assault. Cassie’s vendetta has been sparked by the unspeakable and unpunished crime committed against her friend Nina, who was left ‘broken and unsalvageable’, on a fateful night out. Then Cassie made sure that no good would come from that night for anyone else.’ Nick’s the rapist, Suzanne’s the one who enabled it.

Exploring the Dark Realities:

Its story exposes sexual assault and its consequences in their brutal reality, by unbalancing its viewers so that they can see the quiet, sophisticated and even beautiful ways in which predators manipulate and groom their victims; the social, psychological, procedural systems that create gaslighting and disregard for the harmed; the way each night of crime leaves its victims psychologically ravaged, tormented and hungry for revenge, while living in a world where attackers are rarely faced with justice, guilt, consequences, or understanding.

Impact and Critical Acclaim:

In the months since it was released, Promising Young Woman has received near-universal acclaim as a groundbreaking film full of edgy storytelling and provocative themes that was unflinching in its depiction of sexual assault and messy in its exploration of consent and transgression. It got a cargo of accolades for its ‘brave’ representation of sexual assault and consent, and the performance by Carey Mulligan as Cassie was universally admired. She got nominated for Best Actress for an Academy Award.

Conversations and Reflections:

Already, it’s served as a catalyst for crucial discussions about consent, rape culture, and social change; about cultivating a better understanding of one’s own attitudes and behaviours towards sexual assault; about what it means to believe survivors, hold perpetrators accountable, and ensure safer spaces for all.


A film that is an interrogation and indictment of rape culture, Promising Young Woman indicates not only the prevalence of sexual assault and revenge as a societal issue, but the uncomfortable reality of how we deal with sexual violence. Against the backdrop of an overwhelmingly violent world, it is an intensely relevant and profoundly horrific film that begs the question of how we as a society can become more empathetic and unified in our pursuit of a just and safe future from rape culture.