Carrie Mulligan burst on to the scene in the role of Jenny in the 2009 film, An Education. A coming of age film set in 1960s London where she falls for a man twice her age. Carrie received an Oscar nomination for this role, her first until this year when she was nominated again for her role as Cassie in the film by first time director Emerald Fennell’s in the dark revenge thriller, Promising Young Woman.
I’ve been intrigued by Carrie Mulligan for a while, her film repertoire until now, firmly planted in the period drama genre. Of course, she seems perfect for these roles, and since her on-screen debut in the 2005 Pride & Prejudice, it’s not so surprising. You won’t find me complaining as I love historical drama, and her role in The Dig alongside Ralph Fiennes was no exception. If you haven’t seen it yet, and if you love historical movies based on true-life events, then it’s a good one to watch.
But, it’s her role in the film Promising Young Woman that I want to draw to your attention.
Promising Young Women is set in the modern-day, which for Carrie Mulligan, must have been a joy in itself. The content is troubling as it tackles rape culture, misogyny, victim-blaming and injustice. If you find the subject matter disturbing, you may not want to watch the film or read any further. However, if there was ever a time to make a film like this, then 2020 was that moment.
Described as a dark revenge thriller, I see this film more as a cautionary tale. Or perhaps a harsh and very real lesson in empathy.
The film centres around Cassie. For reasons made clear as the movie progresses, Cassie, a young med school drop out, obsessively ventures out to various bars around town to lure supposedly ‘nice’ unsuspecting men to her side by appearing intoxicated to the point of drunken unconsciousness.
Every night, observing her condition, self-anointed knights-in-shining-armour would find her vulnerable state an opportunity hard to resist, only to have their intentions exposed as Cassie snaps from drunk to very, very sober.
Promising Young Woman is a film that will unapologetically make men feel uncomfortable as it shines a light on the nice-guy trope with a hefty dose of exemplifying empathy. This film does not make men look good. But few are let off the hook, as bystanders are reminded of their complicity as Cassie makes sure everyone has the metaphorical mirror held up good and proper.
As I began to immerse myself in the plot and Cassie’s motivation, I couldn’t help but feel this is an essential film for both men and women to view with eyes wide open.
However, there’s a disturbing scene at the end of the movie, which undoubtedly gave this movie its R rating. For me, this scene went on for too long. So much so, I had to look away. Necessary? Perhaps the level of discomfort I felt was the whole point and brought the film’s end to a stark and brutal reality.
And while the ending provides an uneasy satisfaction, if you like happy endings, skip this one. It’s not by any stretch a romantic comedy. Not. At. All. But if you’re interested in films that provoke and challenge long-held beliefs and stereotypes, then yes, this film is one to see. Not to mention a kick-arse soundtrack and a candy colour feel-good vibe to keep you intrigued as Emerald Fennel serves up her blunt social message. Promising Young Woman will be a film that stays with me for a long time after viewing.
Winning the 2020 Oscar for Best Actress was not to be, and Carrie was beaten by veteran screen actress Frances McDormand who won the Oscar for her role as Fern in the earthly drama, Nomadland. Hard to beat. But, despite the loss, Carrie Mulligan can add Promising Young Woman to an already impressive film career, and for me, she is just hitting her stride.
Carrie Mulligan’s performance will go unrivalled and, and in my opinion, a well deserved Oscar nomination. As for Emerald Fennel’s directorial debut, it’s as brave as it is jaw-dropping, with a razor-sharp script that won Emerald the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Just brilliant.
See you next time,