Review of ‘Promising Young Woman’: A struggling feminist seeking revenge


Photo credit: Promotional photo by IMDb

Carey Mulligan is pictured as she steps into the role of Cassandra Thomas. Cassie is at a local bar waiting to go home, pretending to be intoxicated, with yet another man who intends to take advantage of her. “Promising Young Woman” which premiered in 2021 was nominated for five Oscars and won the award for ‘Best Screen Play.’

By Rose Sarner, Culture Editor

Disclaimer: “Promising Young Woman” is a thriller surrounding the topic of sexual assault which may not be appropriate for all viewers. This review and the film makes reference to violence, sexual assault and murder. The Oracle does not recommend the film for our younger readers, and Common Sense Media estimates it is appropriate for ages 15+.

You will not be the same person when you finish this film. The rambunctious, action-packed and emotionally heavy film, “Promising Young Woman,” is a movie that you will no doubt remember. 

“Promising Young Woman,” written and, directed by Emerald Fennell won the 2021 Oscar for Best Screenplay for its ambitious “revenge feminist” plot. The film tells the story of Cassandra (Cassie), played by Carey Mulligan, as she seeks revenge for the death of her best friend Nina, who was sexually assaulted. 

In film, women are typically portrayed as soft and emotional; however, in this movie, viewers first see a strong empowered, woman on a mission. Cassie plays the lead character seeking revenge on a man, which is new and different. As the story progresses and unfolds, you start to see Cassie break down and soon realize there is a complex internal struggle behind her bulletproof shield. 

Cassie dropped out of medical school after her best friend was filmed being sexually assaulted by a group of boys in her class and left everything she had worked for behind. After the loss of her best friend and a failed attempt to seek justice, Cassie becomes the smartest waitress at a run-down coffee shop by day and every man’s worst nightmare by night. 

The film opens with Cassie “wasted” at a bar, makeup smudged, hair tangled and clearly not in the right state of mind.  She is immediately greeted by a man, who can tell she is not sober, and he proceeds to take her home. Making a stop at his apartment, he immediately starts making out with Cassie, who begins to push him away, explaining that she wants to go home and clearly expresses that she is uncomfortable. The man continues to push himself on her until Cassie’s voice becomes stern and it is revealed that she is sober. The man looks up and says, “This is every man’s worst nightmare” as he begins to justify his actions. Cassie’s response? “Do you know what every woman’s worst nightmare is? Well, guess.”

Every woman’s worst nightmare is being sexually assaulted. Cassie, a confident woman on the outside, yet broken on the inside, tells her story of revenge. As the film unfolds, you watch her in and out of bars pretending to be drunk and then later revealing she is sober to a multitude of men. After every incident, Cassie writes the name of the man down in her journal, which looks like a diary from when she was 12 years old.  As the list grows longer and longer, the audience seeks answers to what the list is for and what Cassie’s end game is.  

Like director and writer Emerald Fennell’s work in the past such as, The Crown,” her stories are long, lengthy and nothing short of great detail. And “Promising Young Woman” is nothing different. In every scene, the film unravels with new plot twists adding loads of detail and shock to the viewers. Mulligan’s character is full of powerful raw emotion and every character follows her lead. 

However, the story shifts when Ryan, Cassie’s old classmate from medical school reconnects with her. Opening up her past and friends associated with Nina’s murder, Cassie and Ryan proceed to grow their relationship while re-visiting old friends, teachers and past relationships. Viewers think the action-packed thriller has turned into a rom-com filled with rainbows and butterflies. But this is clearly no rom-com. 

Cassie then disguises a master plan to seek revenge on the boys responsible for Nina’s death. She starts, by targeting an old friend, who did not side with Cassie after Nina’s death and then uses the dean of the medical school she attended daughter as a target in a blackmail scandal. This film has you in shock up to the very end when you think you know what is happening.  Do you really know though? Watch for yourself and then you tell me.  

  • Story
  • Acting
  • Technical Quality
  • Enjoyment


“Promising Young Woman” takes a fascinating approach to an important and heavy topic. A must-watch for all.