‘Promising Young Woman’ Isn’t Some Far-Fetched Revenge Fantasy—It Shows How I Felt After My Own Experience

Cassie's anger consumed her and controlled her life. Yup, sounds about right.
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'Promising Young Woman' Isn't Some Far-Fetched Revenge Fantasy—It Shows How I Felt After My Own Experience
Content warning: This story contains details about sexual assault and suicide.

When I first saw the trailer for Promising Young Woman, it looked like the perfect revenge romp to sink my teeth into, the kind of film where the bad guys actually pay for their wrongdoings and the women win. You know, the made-up kind that typically only grace our screens for the catharsis. At least, that's what I was thinking even up until I eagerly paid the twenty bucks to enjoy the movie from the comfort of my couch. What I got instead was a film that laid bare, better than I've ever seen on my screen, the ugly truth about the way society fails its female victims.

The film's heroine, Cassandra "Cassie" Thomas, is at the top of her class in med school and on her way to becoming a doctor when her best friend Nina Fischer is raped by a classmate while intoxicated. A gaggle of khaki-pants-clad medical students stand by watching, laughing, and filming. Traumatized, Nina drops out of college. Cassie leaves med school too, trying to pick up the pieces of her shell of a best friend. But in the film, we don't ever get to meet Nina, because Nina is dead. The story begins in the wake of her death, her absence a character of its own. Rent 'Promising Young Woman' amazon.com $19.99

The first time we see Cassie, she's center-frame, surrounded by a red vinyl cushioned wall. She's in a nightclub, thumping with synth-heavy girl pop, and she's faking inebriation, waiting for the guy looking to take a drunk girl home. When one arrives—because let's face it, one often does—she humors him until he tries to seal the deal. Then, boom, she scares him with her sobriety and a stern verbal lashing.

Cute, I thought, but there's no way this would pan out without her getting hurt.


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