Promising Young Woman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Promising Young Woman
Theatrical release poster
Directed byEmerald Fennell
Written byEmerald Fennell
Produced by
CinematographyBenjamin Kračun
Edited byFrédéric Thoraval
Music byAnthony Willis
Distributed by
Release dates
  • January 25, 2020 (2020-01-25) (Sundance)
  • December 25, 2020 (2020-12-25) (United States)
Running time
113 minutes
CountriesUnited States
United Kingdom
Budget~$10 million[3][4]
Box office$18.9 million

Promising Young Woman is a 2020 film written, co-produced, and directed by Emerald Fennell in her feature directorial debut. It stars Carey Mulligan as a troubled young woman haunted by a traumatic past as she navigates balancing forgiveness and vengeance, with Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Chris Lowell, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, and Connie Britton in supporting roles. It incorporates film genres including black comedy, crime drama, feminist film, rape and revenge, and vigilante thriller.[5][6][7][8]

Promising Young Woman had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2020, and was theatrically released in the United States on December 25, 2020, by Focus Features. It received positive reviews from critics, with praise for Fennell's direction and screenplay, the editing and Mulligan's performance, and grossed $19 million worldwide. The film won Best Original Screenplay at the 93rd Academy Awards, with additional nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Mulligan), and Best Film Editing. Fennell also won Best Original Screenplay at the Critics' Choice Awards, Writers' Guild Awards, and British Academy Film Awards.


Cassie Thomas, a 30-year-old medical school dropout, lives with her parents and works at a coffee shop. It is believed that years earlier, her classmate Al Monroe raped her best friend Nina Fisher, leading to Nina's suicide. There was no investigation by the school nor consequences from the legal system. Cassie now spends her nights feigning drunkenness in clubs and bars, allowing men to take her to their homes then revealing her sobriety if they try to take advantage of her.

Cassie goes on a date with another former classmate, Ryan Cooper, who mentions Monroe is getting married. She begins a plan to exact revenge on him and others who are suspected of being involved with the rape. She meets former classmate and friend Madison McPhee who continues to deny Nina was raped. Cassie gets McPhee drunk and hires a man to take Madison to a hotel room. With no memory of what happened, McPhee leaves several distraught voicemails for Cassie who does not reply.

Cassie next targets Elizabeth Walker, the medical school dean who dismissed Nina's case for "lack of evidence". Cassie lures Walker's teenage daughter Amber into her car by posing as a makeup artist for a popular band. Later, Cassie meets Walker under the pretense of resuming her education and questions her about Nina's case. When Walker explains away her actions, Cassie tells her she dropped Amber off at a dorm room with drunk male students. A terrified Walker apologizes for her inaction, and Cassie reveals Amber is safe at a diner.

Cassie forgets to meet Ryan for a date, to his disappointment. She is that night luring a man into taking her home. As they are walking out of the bar they run into Ryan who is hurt. Cassie visits Jordan Green, Al Monroe's lawyer, who harassed Nina and made her drop the charges. Green is remorseful and on leave from practicing law after a nervous breakdown. After hearing this, Cassie cancels her initial plan of exacting revenge and forgives him. After visiting Nina's mother who urges her to move on, Cassie abandons her revenge plans. She also apologizes to Ryan and they pursue their love.

Madison McPhee confronts Cassie outside her house, desperate to know what happened after their lunch. Cassie reassures her that nothing happened. McPhee gives her an old phone containing a video of Nina's rape before warning her never to contact her again. Watching it, Cassie sees Ryan as a bystander. She confronts him and threatens to release the video unless he tells her where Monroe's bachelor party is being held. Ryan tells her and disingenuously asks for forgiveness while shrugging off his own culpability.

Cassie arrives at Monroe's bachelor party posing as a stripper. She drugs the friend group and takes Monroe upstairs, handcuffs him to a bed and reveals her identity. As she starts carving "Nina" onto Monroe's abdomen, he breaks free and suffocates her with a pillow. The next morning, Monroe's best friend Joe helps him burn Cassie's body. Her parents file a missing person report and the police begin to investigate. Ryan tells them Cassie was mentally disturbed and does not tell them she was going to the bachelor party.

At Monroe's wedding, Ryan receives several scheduled texts from Cassie. Jordan Green receives a package from Cassie with the phone containing the video of Nina's rape, and instructions to follow if she does not return from the bachelor party. Gail, Cassie's manager and friend, finds one half of a heart-shaped necklace with Cassie's name under the cash register; Cassie was wearing the matching half with Nina's name when she was killed. The police discover her burnt remains and the necklace and arrest Al Monroe for the murder during his wedding reception as Ryan receives a final text from Cassie, signed with her and Nina's names.



Writer and director Emerald Fennell

Emerald Fennell devised the concept of the film in 2017, and sold the script to Margot Robbie's production company LuckyChap Entertainment after pitching the opening scene.[9] In January 2019, it was announced Carey Mulligan had been set to star in the film, with Fennell directing.[10] In March 2019, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Connie Britton, Adam Brody, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, Max Greenfield, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Sam Richardson, and Molly Shannon joined the cast,[11] with Angela Zhou and Clancy Brown being added in April.[12][13] Principal photography began in Los Angeles on March 26, 2019,[14] lasting 23 days.[15] The majority of exterior shots were filmed at Campus South, part of the Lanterman property at Cal Poly Pomona.[16]

According to Carrie Wittmer of The Ringer, the film production crew deliberately chose male actors who previously played characters known as good or wholesome to reinforce the idea that predators can be anyone.[17]

Fennell created "mood boards" to illustrate to the crew how Cassie has wildly different facets of her personality.[18]

Originally, Fennell planned to end the film at the time Cassie's body was burned, but the production's financiers balked at having a negative ending. She also considered an ending where Cassie appears at the wedding and kills the men responsible but deemed it unrealistic. She decided to have the ending where Cassie has a backup revenge plan as she felt Cassie would be thorough in her planning and she would be aware she could die. Additionally, Fennell stated that having Al apprehended at his wedding would reflect Cassie's sense of humor.[19]

The production had a budget around $10 million.[3][4]



In February 2019, Focus Features acquired distribution rights to the film.[20] It had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2020.[21] It was initially scheduled to be released theatrically on April 17, 2020,[22] but was pulled from the schedule due to the initial closures of movie theaters that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.[23] It was theatrically released on December 25, 2020, instead,[24] and on video on demand on January 15, 2021.[25][26] The Blu-ray was released on March 16, 2021.[27]


Box office[edit]

Promising Young Woman grossed $6.5 million in the United States and Canada, and $12.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $18.9 million.[28]

In North America, the film was released alongside Wonder Woman 1984, News of the World, and Pinocchio, and was projected to gross around $2 million in its opening weekend.[29] It went on to debut to $719,305, finishing fifth at the box office. Some 63% of the audience were female, and 74% were aged over 25.[30] The film dropped 4.4% in its second weekend to $687,900, then made $586,285 in its third weekend, finishing sixth both times.[31][32] The film continued to hold well in the subsequent weekends, including seeing a 16% bump following its four Golden Globe nominations, with a running total of $5.1 million by February 21.[33]

Critical response[edit]

Carey Mulligan's performance garnered widespread critical acclaim and earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Promising Young Woman received highly positive reviews from critics.[34][35] On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 90% of 418 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 8.1/10. The website's consensus reads: "A boldly provocative, timely thriller, Promising Young Woman is an auspicious feature debut for writer-director Emerald Fennell – and a career highlight for Carey Mulligan."[36] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 73 out of 100, based on 48 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[37]

Kate Erbland of IndieWire gave the film a "B+" and wrote "Emerald Fennell's raucous debut, Promising Young Woman, twists its buzzword-laden, spoiler-free synopsis—it's a #MeToo rape revenge thriller with bite!—into something fresh and totally wild."[38] Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Justin Chang said "The grimly multitasking finale of Promising Young Woman feels both audacious and uncertain of itself, as Fennell tries to meld a cackle of delight and a blast of fury, with a lingering residue of anguish. It doesn't all come together, though there's an undeniable thrill in seeing it come apart."[39] Linda Holmes of NPR wrote that while Cassie is the film's focus, "Fennell is saying something here, too, about men. About nice men and about men who think they're nice men, or nice enough men."[40]

In Variety, Dennis Harvey praised Mulligan's performance as "skillful, entertaining and challenging", but questioned her casting, writing that she wore her "pickup-bait gear like bad drag; even her long blonde hair seems a put-on". He speculated that producer Margot Robbie may have once been intended for the role instead. Mulligan criticized the comment, saying, "I felt like it was basically saying that I wasn't hot enough to pull off this kind of ruse ... For this film, you're going to write something that is so transparent? Now? In 2020? I just couldn't believe it." Variety issued an apology, saying the review had been insensitive and "minimized" her "daring performance".[41] The National Society of Film Critics defended Harvey's review and criticized Variety's apology. Harvey responded to Mulligan's comments in The Guardian: "I did not say or even mean to imply Mulligan is 'not hot enough' for the role.'" He pointed out that he was a 60-year-old gay man and did not "go around dwelling on the comparative hotnesses of young actresses".[42]

Aisha Harris of NPR stated that Cassie does not get satisfaction from her acts of revenge, something differing from characters in other thrillers where characters take revenge.[43] A. A. Dowd of The A.V. Club stated that Ryan Cooper initially is contrasted with predatory men and "represents the possibility of forgiveness, a light at the end of the dark tunnel [Cassie has] been traveling through since college."[44][45] In regards to why Ryan chooses to cover for his friends when the police interview him, Fennell said: "He so wants to be good. But he's not going to blow up his own life."[19] In regards to the reveal showing his true character, Dowd said: "Even those who didn't participate are complicit for their silence, their justifications, their refusal to intervene."[44] Dowd added that the casting of Burnham, who "comes across as nonthreatening" and has "a boyish quality", assisted the use of the character.[44] Harris stated that Christopher Mintz-Plasse's portrayal of Neil had "just the right amount of creepy, entitled energy."[43]


Promising Young Woman was nominated for five categories at the 93rd Academy Awards and won Best Original Screenplay.[46] This film was longlisted in 13 categories at the 74th British Academy Film Awards, including Best Director for Fennell, Best Actress for Mulligan, and Best Supporting Actor for Burnham.[47] It was finalised at six categories and won two awards, for Best Original Screenplay and Outstanding British Film.[48] It was nominated for four categories at the 78th Golden Globe Awards,[49] and six at the 26th Critics' Choice Awards.[50] It won Best Actress for Mulligan and Best Original Screenplay for Fennell.[50] It further received a Screen Actors Guild Awards nomination,[51] and four AACTA Awards nomination, winning Best International Film and Best International Actress for Mulligan.[52] Most of the awards were directed to Mulligan and Fennell, for the performances, screenplay as well as direction, respectively.


  1. ^ The film skipped a theatrical release in the United Kingdom and Ireland as a result of the closure of cinemas in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, through a partnership between sister companies Focus Features, Universal Pictures and Sky, the film was made available on April 16, 2021, on Sky's services Sky Cinema and NOW as a Sky Original.[1]


  1. ^ "'Promising Young Woman' skips UK theatrical release to debut on Sky Cinema in April". Screen Daily. Screen International. March 25, 2021. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  2. ^ "Promising Young Woman - BBFC". British Board of Film Classification. December 1, 2020. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Anna Nicolaou (May 21, 2021). "Indie filmmakers see profit in straight-to-streaming releases". The Financial Times. New York. Retrieved February 21, 2023.
  4. ^ a b Scott Mendelson (March 16, 2021). "'Promising Young Woman' Is The Closest Thing To Box Office Hit This Oscar Season". Forbes. Retrieved February 21, 2023.
  5. ^ Machado, Carmen Maria (January 29, 2021). "How "Promising Young Woman" Refigures the Rape-Revenge Movie". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved August 9, 2023.
  6. ^, Promising Young Woman (2020) - Emerald Fennell | Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related | AllMovie, retrieved August 9, 2023 {{citation}}: External link in |last= (help)
  7. ^ Catsoulis, Jeannette (December 24, 2020). "'Promising Young Woman' Review: Courting Dangerous Liaisons (Published 2020)". The New York Times. Retrieved August 9, 2023.
  8. ^ Miller, M. N. (December 14, 2020). "Promising Young Woman review - a dark comedy that may redefine the upcoming decade". Ready Steady Cut. Retrieved August 9, 2023.
  9. ^ Aurthur, Kate; Donnelly, Matt (December 9, 2020). "'Promising Young Woman': How Carey Mulligan and Emerald Fennell Made the Most Audacious, Feminist Movie of the Year". Variety. Archived from the original on December 13, 2020. Retrieved December 15, 2020.
  10. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (January 31, 2019). "Carey Mulligan To Star In FilmNation, LuckyChap Thriller 'Promising Young Woman' — EFM". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on October 28, 2020. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  11. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (March 29, 2019). "Bo Burnham to Star Opposite Carey Mulligan in 'Promising Young Woman'; Alison Brie, Connie Britton, Adam Brody & More Round Cast". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on November 7, 2020. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  12. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (April 2, 2019). "'Hell on Wheels' Star Angela Zhou Joins 'Promising Young Woman'; Ron Funches Cast in 'Sylvie'". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on November 29, 2020. Retrieved April 2, 2019.
  13. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (April 8, 2019). "Clancy Brown Boards 'Promising Young Woman' at Focus Features". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on November 8, 2020. Retrieved April 8, 2019.
  14. ^ Fennell, Emerald [@emeraldfennell] (March 26, 2019). "Day 1 of 'Promising Young Woman'!!!" (Tweet). Retrieved April 21, 2019 – via Twitter.
  15. ^ Joy, Neha (December 14, 2020). "Carey Mulligan on Taking on Toxic Men and Performing Paris Hilton's Song in 'Promising Young Woman'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on December 15, 2020. Retrieved December 15, 2020.
  16. ^ Blake, Lindsay (March 3, 2021). "Carey Mulligan Exacts Sweet Revenge Across Los Angeles in 'Promising Young Woman'". Dirt. Retrieved April 24, 2021.
  17. ^ Wittmer, Carrie (January 9, 2021). "How 'Promising Young Woman' Weaponizes Hollywood's Nice Guys". The Ringer. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  18. ^ Erbland, Kate (December 23, 2020). "'Promising Young Woman': Emerald Fennell on Her Mission to Upend Moviegoers' Thirst for Violence". IndieWire. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  19. ^ a b Aurthur, Kate; Donnelly, Matt (January 16, 2021). "Let's Talk About the Knockout Ending of 'Promising Young Woman'". Variety. Retrieved March 28, 2021.
  20. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (February 13, 2019). "Focus Boards Carey Mulligan Thriller 'Promising Young Woman'". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on October 21, 2020. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  21. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (December 4, 2019). "Sundance Unveils Female-Powered Lineup Featuring Taylor Swift, Gloria Steinem, Abortion Road Trip Drama". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on December 8, 2019. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  22. ^ "Focus Features to Release PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN on April 17". Broadway World. November 22, 2019. Archived from the original on September 7, 2020. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  23. ^ "Promising Young Woman". Focus Features. Archived from the original on March 31, 2020. Retrieved April 13, 2020.
  24. ^ Rubin, Rebecca (October 9, 2020). "'Promising Young Woman' Will be Released in Theaters in Time for Christmas". Variety. Archived from the original on November 20, 2020. Retrieved October 9, 2020.
  25. ^ Nolfi, Joey (January 6, 2021). "Promising Young Woman will be available to rent starting next week". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on January 7, 2021. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
  26. ^ Sledge, Philip (January 11, 2021). "How To Watch Promising Young Woman Streaming". CINEMABLEND. Archived from the original on January 12, 2021. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  27. ^ "Promising Young Woman Blu-ray". Retrieved April 4, 2021.
  28. ^ "Promising Young Woman". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved January 15, 2023.Edit this at Wikidata
  29. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (December 22, 2020). "'Wonder Woman 1984' Will Try To Use Whatever Remaining Superpowers Over Christmas For Starving U.S. Exhibitors – Box Office Preview". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on December 22, 2020. Retrieved December 22, 2020.
  30. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (December 27, 2020). "'Wonder Woman 1984' Hits $16.7M At Domestic B.O. In Face Of HBO Max Release; Record For Pandemic, But -84% Lower Than First Pic's Opening". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on December 28, 2020. Retrieved December 27, 2020.
  31. ^ Fuster, Jeremy (January 3, 2021). "'Wonder Woman 1984' Reaches $118 Million Worldwide, But Pandemic Forces 67% Domestic Drop". TheWrap. Archived from the original on January 3, 2021. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  32. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (January 10, 2021). "'Wonder Woman 1984' Continues To Fall With $3M In Third Weekend Amid Pandemic & U.S. Capitol Woes". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on January 10, 2021. Retrieved January 10, 2021.
  33. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (February 21, 2021). "'Croods 2' Crosses $50M; Searchlight Staying Quiet On 'Nomadland' B.O. & What That Means During Awards Season". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on February 21, 2021. Retrieved February 21, 2021.
  34. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (December 27, 2020). "'Promising Young Woman' And 'Pinocchio' Debuts Bring Some Holiday Coin To Specialty Box Office". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 31, 2021. Since making its world premiere at Sundance, the film has been getting tons of buzz and acclaim.
  35. ^ Geisinger, Gabriella (May 5, 2021). "A deep dive into Promising Young Woman's creative prowess". Digital Spy. Retrieved May 31, 2021. Promising Young Woman is the movie on everyone's lips right now, with the critical acclaim to back it up.
  36. ^ "Promising Young Woman". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved January 15, 2023. Edit this at Wikidata
  37. ^ "Promising Young Woman". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved January 15, 2023.
  38. ^ Erbland, Kate (January 26, 2020). "'Promising Young Woman' Review: Carey Mulligan Has the Time of Her Life in Fiery #MeToo Revenge Thriller". IndieWire. Archived from the original on December 9, 2020. Retrieved December 15, 2020.
  39. ^ Chang, Justin (December 23, 2020). "Review: Carey Mulligan holds the wild revenge-thriller provocations of 'Promising Young Woman' together". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 25, 2020. Retrieved December 25, 2020.
  40. ^ Holmes, Linda (December 26, 2020). "'Promising Young Woman' Is A Dark Comedy That Will Keep You On Your Toes". NPR. Archived from the original on January 31, 2021. Retrieved January 31, 2021.
  41. ^ Shoard, Catherine (January 28, 2021). "'They said I wasn't hot enough': Carey Mulligan hits out again at magazine review". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  42. ^ Shoard, Catherine (January 28, 2021). "'I was appalled to be tarred as misogynist': Variety critic hits back at Carey Mulligan's sexism accusations". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved March 31, 2021.
  43. ^ a b Harris, Aisha (January 21, 2021). "The Agony And Subversion Of The 'Promising Young Woman' Ending". NPR. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  44. ^ a b c Dowd, A. A. (December 30, 2020). "Promising Young Woman makes smart, devious use of Bo Burnham". The A.V. Club. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  45. ^ "Promising Young Woman makes smart, devious use of Bo Burnham". Yahoo!.
  46. ^ Sharf, Zack (March 15, 2021). "Oscars Nominations: 'Mank' Leads with 10 Noms, Plus 'Nomadland,' 'Judas,' 'Minari,' 'Sound of Metal,' and More".
  47. ^ "Longlists, 2021 EE British Academy Film Awards". British Academy Film Awards. February 4, 2021. Archived from the original on February 6, 2021. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  48. ^ "2021 EE British Academy Film Awards: The Nominations". March 9, 2021. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  49. ^ "Nominations for the 78th Golden Globe Awards (2021) Announced". Archived from the original on February 3, 2021. Retrieved February 3, 2021.
  50. ^ a b Davis, Clayton (February 8, 2021). "Critics Choice Awards: 'Mank' Leads With 12 Nominations, Netflix Makes History With Four Best Picture Nominees". Variety. Archived from the original on February 8, 2021. Retrieved February 11, 2021.
  51. ^ "The 2020 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award Nominations". Archived from the original on February 5, 2021. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  52. ^ "AACTA INTERNATIONAL AWARDS". Retrieved March 15, 2021.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]