Sundance 2020: Promising Young Woman

Carey Mulligan stars as Cassie in director Emerald Fennell’s PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN, a Focus Features release. Credit: Courtesy of Focus Features

If there’s a film that you should go into without watching a trailer or reading reviews, Promising Young Woman is that film.

The large majority of filmgoers will have until mid-April before they can see this film.  As a result, I’m going to be extra careful in writing about this film.  It’s a film that ought to be treated like that of a Marvel or Star Wars film.  Go into it knowing very little as possible.  You’ll thank me for this piece of information later!

Cassie Thomas (Carrie Mulligan) was going to be a doctor.  That is, until something happened and she ended up dropping out of med school.  When we meet her, she’s living a double life.  Barista by day, Cassie works the club scene at night.  This is as little information as you’re getting from me.

Cassie is at the doctor’s office when she finds herself in a reunion with med school classmate, Ryan (Bo Burnham).  He’s relentless in his efforts to pursue her.  Will anything come from this?  Again, you’ll just have to see.  Aside from that, I really can’t get into anything else without ruining the film for you.  This isn’t the film to ruin for audiences especially in this era of people tweeting out plot points like crazy on social media.

While the cast features a number of names from the comedy scene, this film is not a comedy.  It’s a drama.  A crima drama.  There may be some comedic moments but honestly, this is about it.  It’s interesting to watch some of these comedians acting against type.  Or they’re playing to type without realizing the severity of the situation at hand.

Emerald Fennell, who served as head writer on Killing Eve‘s second season, hits it out of the ballpark with her feature directorial debut.  The film, which marks the second Sundance appearance for Fennell, is smartly written with an opening that truly sets the tone.  I love what Fennell does with the script here.  She really has a way of taking us on turn after turn.

Ever since Carey Mulligan broke into the scene with her Oscar-nominated performance in An Education, the actress has been one to watch.  Two years after starring in Wildlife, Mulligan delivers in one of the wildest films of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.  Will it land her another Oscar nomination?  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Promising Young Woman is a film that should be seen while knowing as little information as possible.

DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER:  Emerald Fennell
CAST:  Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Connie Britton, Adam Brody, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, Max Greenfield, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chris Lowell, Sam Richardson, Molly Shannon, Clancy Brown

Promising Young Woman held its world premiere during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the Premieres program. Focus Features will open Promising Young Woman on April 17, 2020. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.