Promising Young Woman: A Film Review

Promising Young Woman has been widely praised for its subject matter and unique format. The film unpacks the life of Cassandra, a young woman who was forced to drop out of medical school following a traumatic event. Cassandra’s friend, Nina,  had gone to a party and became the victim of a sexual assault – when they went to report it to the school, no one believed that it had happened. When their peers heard about it, they either thought Nina was lying or blamed her for what happened. The lack of support in addition to the trauma of the assault was too much for her. Cassandra dropped out with Nina so that she could take care of her. 

Ten years after these events, Cassandra is looking for revenge. More specifically, Cassandra targets predators and anyone who silences and places the blame on the victims of abuse.

This film was written and directed by Emerald Fennell who is well known for her involvement in the “Killing Eve” series, as well as playing Camilla Parker-Bowles in “The Crown”. In an interview with James Medd, Fennell reiterated that this was her first time directing her own movie. A later interview with the Los Angeles Times dug a little deeper and asked Fennell to explain her inspiration for this movie. She said:

I just wanted to look at our culture in general and all these sort of gray areas that we all live in, particularly when it comes to relationships and men and women and sex and all of these things … What so often is the case with these things is it isn’t that people disagree on something happening — i.e., somebody says it did, somebody says it didn’t — what often happens is people say something happened, everyone knows the exact same thing happened, but they feel very differently about it and they’ve read the situation very, very differently.

 (Emerald Fennell on the inspiration for ‘Promising Young Woman’ – Olsen, 2020 – LATimes) 

Sexual violence is unfortunately very common in today’s society. A 2018 survey conducted by Statistics Canada found that “more than 11 million Canadians have been physically or sexually assaulted since the age of 15. This represents 39% of women and 35% of men 15 years of age and older in Canada, with the gender difference driven by a much higher prevalence of sexual assault among women than men (30% versus 8%).” (StatsCan, Gender Based Violence)  

It is more than likely that you or someone you know will experience sexual violence. Just because it is so common does not mean that it is normal. Sexual harassment or assault is never acceptable, and there are resources here at Acadia for anyone who needs support. For more information on how to get support at Acadia for you or someone you know, please go to this support page.