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This award-winning outing from director Emerald Fennell is sure to start some conversations.

At first glance from marketing materials, Promising Young Woman may seem like a rather simplistic revenge thriller, but it actually digs a little deeper into its heroine's pain.

Notably named Cassandra, the name of the Greek mythological figure who tells true prophecies but no one believes her, the heroine of Promising Young Woman is a sardonic, whip-smart but rather directionless young woman who is judged by her parents and her co-worker for being stuck in the past and appearing unable to move on.

However, unbeknownst to those close to her, Cassie spends her evenings pretending to be drunk when out in bars and nightclubs and is then taken home by 'nice guys' who look to take advantage of her – until she turns the tables on them.

Promising Young Woman focuses on Cassie, a woman who can often be seen 'drunk' at bars
(Image: Focus Films/Youtube)

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This serial behaviour is birthed from a vicious trauma from Cassie’s college years, which she is once again confronted with when she bumps into old acquaintance Ryan, a sweet, dorky but charming guy who asks her out on a date.

While Cassie pursues a mission of her own against those responsible for the dark times of her college years, she begins to open up herself to the prospect of personal happiness with Ryan.

Yet, her desire for revenge and justice takes Cassie to some painful and dangerous places.

Cassie (Carey Mulligan) remains haunted by experiences from her past
(Image: Focus Films/Youtube)

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With a cutting script that mines toxic gender politics surrounding sexual abuse, writer-director Emerald Fennell (also known for her performances in The Crown and Call the Midwife) has offered a provocative and unpredictable thriller that is imbued with dark humour and grief to match its troubled heroine.

Carey Mulligan once again proves herself to be one of our most gifted actresses as Cassie who is driven by loss and anger but also carries heart and a hidden desire for happiness beneath her thirst for justice in a world rigged for abusive men.

The actress particularly excels in dialogue-driven confrontational scenes as Cassie tracks down figures from the past to deliver some bitter honesty in her typically scathing and satisfying fashion, while also offering a critique of wider society at large.

A desire for revenge and justice drives Cassie into dangerous territory
(Image: Focus Films/Youtube)

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Elsewhere, there are stellar supporting turns too, with the cast littered with charismatic notable players such as the underused Laverne Cox as Cassie's brutally honest manager, Jennifer Coolidge and Clancy Brown as Cassie's concerned parents, Connie Briton as a college dean, and Alison Brie as an old college acquaintance.

There is also inspired subversive casting of many of the 'nice guys' in the film, with stars like Adam Brody and Max Greenfield having played lovable male characters in other well-known properties but here carry dark intentions despite an inherently likeable exterior.

Importantly, Bo Burnham is also a perfect choice to play Cassie’s love interest Ryan, with the director-actor bringing his wit and heart to a turn that grows more textured as his connection with Cassie develops. Burnham carries a sweet understated chemistry with Mulligan that makes it hard not to root for them.

Carey Mulligan deserves all the praise she is getting for her performance
(Image: Focus Films/Youtube)

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In addition to the strong performances, the film has an individual sense of visual and musical style, playing on the cool pastille colour tones and bright pinks, particularly with Cassie’s wardrobe, and using them to challenge ideas of traditional feminity.

Memorable use of pop music and particularly pop covers also abounds, from a chilling orchestral version of Britney Spears' Toxic utilised to build on the tension before a key climactic sequence to a romantic montage set to Paris Hilton's cheesy classic Stars Are Blind.

As the film veers into grim depths that are unfiltered, triggering and heartbreaking, there’s a clear message to the events here and they highlight the rotten values entrenched in our patriarchal culture.

Promising Young Woman veers into increasingly dark territory
(Image: Focus Films/Youtube)

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The final flourish does feel somewhat tonally jarring with the events that proceeded it, but many viewers will likely be left feeling somewhat satisfied as a result of this particular twist.

Ultimately, with a powerful lead performance from Carey Mulligan, Emerald Fennell has crafted a dark film that carries personality and chilling humour in spades and it will almost certainly stay with you after the credits roll – wherever you stand on it.

Verdict

Promising Young Woman is a provocative, unpredictable and powerful thriller from writer-director Emerald Fennell and an ideal opportunity for star Carey Mulligan to display her rich talents.

*Promising Young Woman is released on Sky Cinema and NOW on April 16, 2021.

What is your favourite performance from Carey Mulligan? Let us know in the comments below.