Despite a flimsy ending, Promising Young Woman still succeeds in laying bare the worst atrocities of rape. Violence, incidentally, the least of these.
Promising Young Woman Synopsis
Cassie Thomas, a med-school dropout, lives a shattered existence. In the daytime, she languishes as a barista in a small shop. Come night time, she feigns intoxication at clubs to lure men into taking her home, then shaming them. After meeting Ryan, an ex-classmate, she decides to up her game by taking out the people responsible for her grief. Years ago, Cassie’s best friend, Nina, was gang-raped. Horrifically, the perpetrators were never brought to justice too. Even their schoolmates refused to believe Nina’s claims, on grounds that she was questionable in general conduct.
This was a tough watch for me, for various reasons. Foremost of which being:
- Though described as one, Promising Young Woman is not exactly a revenge thriller. There are no mind-boggling, brilliant schemes. Instead, the movie is more about the appalling prejudice towards some types of rape victims. In other words, truly grim and painful to sit through.
- A mid-movie dialogue starkly reminded me of a molest case in Singapore. Connie Britton’s brief words were near a copy of the judgment passed in that notorious case. That unsettling judgment necessitated a legislative review in Singapore in 2021.
The show is additionally a tough watch because of Carey Mulligan’s exemplary performance; she truly deserves her Oscar nomination. Though saddled with a backstory that’s clumsily explored/executed, Mulligan’s Cassie curtly delivers the underlying message. This message being, the worst struggle of rape victims and their loved ones is never just the quest for justice. It’s also all about the battle to let go and move on.
Forget about everything, let go, and move on. And when reminded of everything later in life, go through the entire ordeal again.
To give away some spoilers, Cassie Thomas tries hard but fails. What she subsequently does is to me, extremely wrong, but not unexpected given her grief.
As for the climax, i.e., what Cassie ultimately does, I have to say it abandons the realistic feel of the show, swinging the story back to typical vengeance dramas plots and the likes of. Mildly disappointing as this is for me, though, I guess one could interpret this ending as a metaphorical summary of the inevitable outcome of any sexual violence.
As in, no one wins even if justice is served. Victims and their loved ones lose a part of themselves forever.
Even if violent retribution is enacted, everything just worsens. Often, a new set of horrors is unleashed. With unforgiving harshness, Promising Young Woman demands that you accept this tragic truth.
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