Promising Young Woman: Film Review

Promising Young Woman

Back in early 2020, before the cinemas closed, I saw the trailer for Emerald Fennell‘s Promising Young Woman before I watched a movie and I was like, “This looks amazing, I can’t wait to see it!” and that feeling hasn’t left me in the many months that’s passed since that moment. And now, after many delays, I have FINALLY seen Promising Young Woman.

The film stars Carey Mulligan as Cassandra ‘Cassie’ Thomas, who pretends to be drunk in bars to trick men into taking her home for sex so she can teach them a lesson about consent. She has also has a five-part plan to get revenge on the men who sexually assaulted her best friend Nina in college as well as those who knew about it and did nothing.

This is an unapologetic, daring, blistering film which has a lot to say about sexual assault, consent, and how female victims are usually blamed for what happens to them while the men get the benefit of the doubt. It also addresses the old movie trope of men having their way with women when they’re too drunk to consent – that seemed acceptable and normal back then and Promising Young Woman drives home the message that this is very much not OK.

It’s impressive that this is Fennell’s directorial debut because she pitched it perfectly. I wasn’t sold on a couple of scenes – the Stars are Blind moment in the pharmacy and the very end – but otherwise I thought Fennell had complete control of the tone, how dark she wanted it to go and where she wanted Cassie to sit on the sane/crazy scale. Her screenplay is smart and very well-written; she makes her points loud and clear without making it preachy and occasionally softens the revenge thriller aspect with some romantic comedy moments. I also loved the pastel colour palette, Cassie’s feminine clothes and her cute manicure, and how they worked in contrast to the darkness of the subject matter.

Promising Young Woman

Fennell’s casting was also spot-on. Mulligan wouldn’t usually be first choice for Cassie because she is best known for her work in period dramas and as “nice” characters and this unexpected casting makes her performance so much more exciting. I love it when actors get to do something completely different. I enjoyed watching her playing such a bold ballsy role, dressing up in sexy outfits, always looking in control in difficult situations, and confronting people about tough subjects with a smile on her face like it’s a normal casual conversation. Mulligan nails the part and I’m so thrilled she’s been Oscar nominated for it.

But it’s not just the lead role that Fennell aced the casting with – I’m not too familiar with Bo Burnham‘s onscreen acting work but I thought he was the right fit as Cassie’s love interest Ryan; he was cute, awkward, and funny and I liked his personality. And then there are so many actors I love in small roles, like Alison Brie as Cassie’s neurotic former friend Madison, Molly Shannon as Nina’s sympathetic mum, Alfred Molina as a remorseful lawyer, and Connie Britton as the dean of Cassie’s old college. And it was smart casting actors you would normally associate with good guy roles as Cassie’s targets, such as Adam Brody, Max Greenfield, Chris Lowell, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

I have to talk about that ending. You’ll be getting no spoilers from me as you should go into this film knowing as little as possible – but holy cow! The conclusion left me reeling and struggling to process my thoughts so I’m glad they managed to come together so I could write this review. It will leave you thinking for hours after the credits roll.

I’d been hyped for this release for a long time so I was expecting perfection, which is a huge amount of expectation to put on a film! It wasn’t perfect but I loved basically everything about it – the concept, the points Fennell makes, the casting, the wardrobe, the soundtrack (that string version of Toxic is so chilling!) and it deserves every success it’s had this awards season. I don’t think it’ll win the Best Picture Oscar but I would love it to win Best Original Screenplay.

Do yourselves a favour and go watch this film.

Available on Sky Cinema and NOW from Friday 16th April

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Dig: Netflix Film Review

The Dig

Admittedly there’s another Carey Mulligan film that I’d rather be watching, but The Dig is a decent consolation prize.

The Dig is based on John Preston‘s novel, which reimagines the events surrounding the real-life excavation of the Sutton Hoo burial site in Suffolk, England in 1939. Mulligan stars as Edith Pretty, a widower who hires self-taught excavator Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) to dig up the mysterious mounds in her fields. Once they uncover an Anglo-Saxon ship, the discovery becomes big news and archaeologists descend upon the site, hoping to claim it for either the British Museum or the Ipswich Museum. These include married couple Stuart and Peggy Piggott (Ben Chaplin and Lily James), while Edith calls up her cousin Rory (Johnny Flynn) to help.

Watching people dig up dirt and meticulously move soil around to find long-buried artefacts is painfully dull and slow so Simon Stone has brought some excitement with the characters, from Edith’s secret illness, Stuart and Peggy’s troubled marriage, to Basil’s fight to lead the dig when the academic archaeologists want to take over, not to mention the threat of World War II looming in the background.

Even still, The Dig is still just a simple, gentle and pleasant affair. It looks gorgeous, with some stunning cinematography depicting the English countryside and the dig site, which is amazing to look at when it’s finished, but there’s not enough substance to grab onto, hook us in, and make us really care about the story. Not every film needs high-stakes drama to work, but this needed a little more oomph.

Mulligan is no stranger to period dramas and she is a strong lead as the refined and outwardly stoic Edith, who tries to keep up appearances despite her illness, while Fiennes was an interesting choice for the unorthodox local man. I wasn’t totally convinced by his accent but Brown, despite his seemingly grouchy nature at first, becomes the most likeable towards the end. I liked how his friendship developed with Edith and how he provided a father-type figure for her son Robert (Archie Barnes). James and Flynn’s storyline was too obvious to really work but they did a fine enough job.

The Dig is an easy Sunday afternoon type of film. It’s harmless, inoffensive and pleasant, but it’s just missing a bit of excitement.

On Netflix from Friday 29th January

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Wildlife: Film Review

I loved Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan‘s previous joint effort Ruby Sparks so I had high hopes for Wildlife, which is Dano’s directorial debut starring Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal. It is an assured debut which looked beautiful and had some great ideas, but it was a bit too slow for my tastes.

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Mudbound: Film Review

I was really keen to see Mudbound because it received rave reviews on the film festival circuit and while it is worth a watch for the performances and the climax, the rest is too slow and meandering.

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Mudbound: LFF Film Review

I had heard rave reviews about Mudbound following its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, so I had to check it out when it came to LFF, and it is certainly worth a watch performance-wise.

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Carey Mulligan and Garrett Hedlund at the Mudbound LFF premiere

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I was unable to make the opening premiere of London Film Festival on Wednesday, so it kicked off officially for me today at the Mudbound premiere in Leicester Square.

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London Film Festival 2017: Ten films I really want to see

There are so many films on the 2017 London Film Festival programme that I’m keen to see and I know I will never see them all.

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Suffragette: Film Review

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This is a huge part of British history and I’m completely amazed it hasn’t been covered in film before. It is incredibly important, so powerful and still very relevant so I urge everyone to watch Suffragette.

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Top Films for October

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It’s that time of the year again – a new month, a new round of films to check out and October has some AMAZING movies that I cannot wait for. Here’s a round-down of my must-see movies for this month…

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BFI London Film Festival: What I want to see

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Tickets for the BFI London Film Festival opened today and I have been through the schedule and here are my (pretty obvious) choices for the tickets I want to get my hands on:

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