TW: Rape, Murder, Rape attempt
“Promising young woman” is the Oscar winner for best screenplay at the 93rd academy awards(2020). The movie was also nominated for best picture, best actress, best film editing, and best director.
I have seen this movie twice now and I am amazed at the way the movie captures all your attention and makes you feel angry, sad, and disgusted all at the same time. The movie is a revenge story to put it simply.
Why is Promising young woman different?
It doesn’t involve violence or bloodshed. We don’t even see the main culprit up until the end of the movie. The movie is not only about revenge. The initial parts of the story don’t essentially revolve around revenge.
We see Cassie Thomas, a woman in her 30’s pretending like a drunk woman in front of men only to honeytrap them. She accepts their “help” and when they try to take advantage of her while she repeatedly says ‘No’, After a while, she finally stops pretending to be drunk to tell them a firm ‘No’, straight to their face.
Almost all of the men are shocked and scared when they find out that she is not drunk as they anticipated. They are supposedly the nice guys who try to help women when they are drunk and unstable. But they are not actually nice! They are only pretending to be nice to prey on unstable women. The irony is that in the movie these predators are deliberately portrayed by actors who are generally known for playing comic roles.
In the beginning, the movie centers on Cassie’s night outs to find these predators. The viewers are hooked to know what is her motive. As the movie progresses, we find out that she is a dropout from medical school and is still living with her parents. We also find out that she is working at a local coffee shop with a low income. She is deliberately living her life like this even though everyone is advising her otherwise.
She meets Ryan one of her classmates from medical school in the coffee shop and he recalls that Cassie was in a group of three with two more of her friends.
Then we meet Ryan again, who is now asking Cassie on a date. He also reminds her about one of their fellow classmates Al and how he is getting married soon and is in the country. We can see Cassie’s sudden interest. Cassie goes on date with Ryan and when they walk together after that, he claims they accidentally reached his home. He asks if she wants a drink but she rejects the offer and leaves in frustration realizing how he is like all the other men. Trying to get a chance with her on their very first date.
Cassie browses the internet about Al and finds out how he is happily engaged. She finds how her other classmates are still in touch with him and all friendly with him. She finds the profile of Madison, one of her friends. Madison is happily married and a mother.
She texts Madison to meet up with her thereby starting her revenge plan.
Over the course of the movie, we learn that Cassie used to have a best friend from her childhood- Nina. We learn Nina was raped by her collegemates after she gets drunk at a party when Cassie was not with her. We also realize that even her friend Madison didn’t believe Nina’s words as she was hammered.
Cassie makes Madison drunk and pays a man to take her to a hotel room to make her realize Nina’s trauma. Though the man didn’t do anything, Madison is guilt-ridden and can’t stop thinking about what had happened. Given that she couldn’t remember anything, she feels helpless.
Then we learn how even Nina’s college dean, a woman herself, Elizabeth Walker refused to take up Nina’s case due to “lack of evidence”.
Cassie exerts her revenge by trying to make her believe that she has left her high school daughter alone in a dorm room. The dean begs her to tell her where her daughter is but Cassie confronts her on rejecting Nina’s plea. To which Elizabeth replies she didn’t want to ruin the future of a bright student like Al based on the complaint of Nina- who on the other hand was known for getting drunk. But Nina is also a star student when it comes to academics which begs the question, wasn’t her future important?
Cassie later reveals that she didn’t leave her daughter in a college dorm room but only at the nearby diner.
Then we see Cassie approaching Jordan Green, who was Al’s lawyer for Nina’s case. It is revealed that he bullied and threatened Nina to make sure there was nothing against Al. But when Cassie approaches him, he is in a remorse phase. He says he doesn’t work for the law firm anymore and says he is sorry for everything he had done against Nina.
We can see that Jordan is not living a happy life like the others who were involved in Nina’s case. He looks like a sad lonely man with nothing but remorse. So Cassie chooses to forgive him.
But he says how the rich kids’ dads are ready to pay all the money it takes to make sure their kids are saved from such cases. He says how these lawyers would go to any extent to ruin these girls’ lives and reputations to save their clients.
Cassie is caught by Ryan when she pretends to be drunk with another man. She then later makes up to him and they start to date. Cassie is happy for a while forgetting all about revenge. But one day she sees Madison waiting for her at her home. Cassie explains to Madison nothing happened to her when she was drunk. Madison is relieved but gives Cassie a video. She says it was passed around as a joke when they were in college.
We don’t see the video, but it is the video of Nina getting raped. Al not only raped Nina but he raped her in front of all his friends. But that’s not all, Cassie recognizes a voice in the background. It was Ryan.
Cassie take her time to wrap her head around what had happened. Then she confronts Ryan about the video. We see Ryan saying he is sorry and ‘He was only a kid’. Cassie asks him to tell her the address of Al’s bachelor party.
Cassie dresses up as a stripper nurse and goes to the bachelor party with Champagne. She gives all the guys champagne except the groom- Al. Then she leaves with Al separately and handcuffs him to the bed’s headboard.
When she says her name is Nina Fisher, he is alarmed. He remembers Cassie and begs her to leave him alone. He screams for help but Cassie had drugged the champagne and all his friends were unconscious. She tells how her friend never got justice and everyone forgot about her unlike him who was remembered by everyone. She says how all Nina heard was Al’s name after the incident and how she carried Al’s name. She says that Al should be the one carrying her name and tries to carve Nina’s name on him.
Al pushes her away and frees one of his hands and suffocates Cassie with a pillow. We see Cassie struggling and trying to get out for more than two minutes. But she is dead.
The next morning, Al’s friend is shocked to find dead Cassie. He says Al didn’t do anything wrong and helps him dispose of her body.
We then see Al’s wedding and how Cassie’s parents are looking for their daughter.
But then Cassie’s scheduled message goes to everyone and she has also mailed Jordan before leaving for Al’s bachelor’s party. We see Al getting arrested at the end for the murder of Cassie and the movie ends.
This movie shows how cruel society can be. A woman’s quest for justice is not supported by others because she is known for getting drunk.
The strong theme throughout the movie is that there are evil men who are lurking around in the pretense of being good guys. They are not all psychopaths or outright violent criminals. But ordinary men who take advantage of women when they get the chance.
We can see as a system, how society has failed women.
This is not a man-hating movie. And if you are someone who claims so, remember the movie only shines a light on men who harass women. If it makes you mad then something is wrong with you. Cassie never hurts any of the men even after they almost harassed her. She has been violated but she walks away in peace.
Her only action is to show a mirror to the face of the men who think they are good guys and make them see their real faces.
Cassie’s end might is not a happy ending. Because in real life there are many victims out there without a happy ending.
Promising young woman is a promising movie that takes you on a ride of a revenge story with a unique touch of its own, thanks to director and writer Emerald Fennell.
Live through stories!