Promising Young Woman Parent Guide
This film walks a fine line between honestly discussing the trauma of sexual assault and not putting sexualized violence on screen.
Parent Movie Review
Following a traumatic, extended series of incidents in university, Cassie (Carey Mulligan) dropped out of med school and got a job at a coffee shop. But that’s not the only thing she’s working on: Cassie spends her nights pretending to be black-out drunk in seedy bars. Her apparent vulnerability attracts some unsavory and lecherous men, at which point Cassie teaches them important lessons about sexual consent.
Cassie’s plans get more complicated when she meets a former classmate, Ryan (Bo Burnham), at work and agrees to go on a few dates with him. From Ryan she learns that the man responsible for the problems she had in med school, Al Monroe (Chris Lowell), is back in town – and now Cassie must choose between exacting revenge and maintaining her new relationship.
Movies about sexual assault need to walk a fine line between being watchable and still showing the trauma of the crime. Promising Young Woman does a remarkable job toeing that line. Trauma is evident in spades, but this is a film with no nudity or graphic on-screen sexual behavior. It’s rare to see a film manage to have a candid discussion about sexual violence without putting nudity on screen. Emerald Fennell, who both wrote and directed this production deserves credit for the achievement.
That’s not to say there isn’t any content to be concerned about. Obviously, victims of sexual harassment will likely find large portions of this film upsetting at best, and potentially triggering at worst. There is still a great deal of graphic sexual conversation to make up for the lack of on-screen activity and a healthy helping of profanity to go with it. Add in some brief, but disturbing, instances of violence and this isn’t going to be a great choice for a family movie night with the kids.
Content concerns aside, the issues and morals raised in the film are important, and while they’re unsuitable for a younger audience, these are important conversations for us to have as a society. We’ve certainly done a lot to avoid them, and that has been a repulsive deferral of responsibility. Promising Young Woman does everything it can to force people to confront the realities of sexual harassment: it’s up to the audience to make the changes we need to not only the criminal justice system, but to society itself. When we teach women to protect themselves instead of teaching boys not to be rapists, we condone an insane amount of sexual violence. It’s up to us to stop it.Directed by Emerald Fennell. Starring Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, and Laverne Cox. Running time: 113 minutes. Theatrical release January 15, 2021. Updated October 2, 2021
Watch the trailer for Promising Young Woman
Promising Young Woman
Rating & Content Info
Why is Promising Young Woman rated R? Promising Young Woman is rated R by the MPAA for strong violence including sexual assault, language throughout, some sexual material and drug use.
Violence: An individual is threatened with a knife. A character is smothered to death with a pillow, and their body burned. There are references to suicide and self-harm.
Sexual Content: There are several graphic sexual conversations. There are depictions of and references to sexual assault with no nudity. The plot focuses around a brutal rape, which is not seen. Several characters are seen in either overtly sexual clothing or with novelty adult toys. A couple are seen in bed together but no on-screen sexual activity occurs.
Profanity: There are approximately 85 uses of coarse and sexual language in the movie including 61 uses of extreme profanity, 15 scatological profanities, and occasional mild profanities and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Individuals are shown drinking heavily and, on one occasion, using cocaine. The protagonist frequently pretends to be intoxicated but notably avoids drinking. Several individuals are involuntarily dosed with a variety of drugs.
Page last updated October 2, 2021
Promising Young Woman Parents' Guide
Society clearly has a problem addressing the epidemic around sexual violence against women – and it is an epidemic. What do you think should be done? What are some notable cases which received public attention for their failure to address this issue? What happened in those cases, to either the victim or the perpetrator? What should the penalty for sexual misconduct be?
National Sexual Violence Resource Center:
The New York Times: It’s Not That Men Don’t Know What Consent Is
HuffPost: What Will It Take to end Sexual Assault?
Cassie has an aggressive, hands-on approach to confronting perpetrators of sexual violence. What are the dangers of her tactics for her? Do you think her methods are just?
Related home video titles:
Sexual harassment in the workplace is addressed in Bombshell, which depicts the Fox News scandal that brought down Roger Ailes.
On campus sexual assault is experienced by a male student in Boy Erased. A female student at a Nigerian university struggles with fallout after she accuses her professor of attempted rape in Citation.