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Sexual Assault in Film: Promising Young Woman

By Ellie Rochell

What a film.

Promising Young Woman is a ‘hard to watch but can’t tear your eyes away’ film. Something I believe all people, young and old, should see.

The opening scene really leads the audience to make some assumptions about what horrors they’re about to see. But, alas. An empowering moment enters our screen instead of the dreaded alternative, and that’s how we’re introduced to Cassie.

The just-turned thirty-year-old lives in her parents house after dropping out of medical school alongside her best friend, Nina- a girl we have yet to find out much about.

We see the protagonist use perfected acting skills to convince the prying hands of strange men that she is far too drunk to speak, let alone walk. And just when they think they have her in a very vulnerable position, ready to take advantage, she wakes up. Suddenly, she is sober and their absolute worst nightmare.

In the early stages of the film, it’s not entirely clear what Cassie does to these predatory men after revealing her sobriety. Does she kill? Does she torture? The film keeps these facts tightly underwraps.

Over the next half-an-hour or so of the film, we see this scene happen time and time again with a different man, each of them uttering the words ‘I’m a nice guy’ once they are caught.

As the movie progresses, it becomes clear why Cassie has such a vendetta.

We also see her interactions with Ryan, the man she’s dating- who also attended her medical school. She becomes a little more vulnerable, showing her youthful and careless side.

But slowly we see a plan of hers start to unravel. Now, I won’t reveal any of the details- this is for you to discover yourself- this is when her ultimate ‘evil’ plan begins, targeting more people.

At one point in the film we hear a woman say: “We have to give these boys the benefit of the doubt.” This drags Cassie- and I, sat watching the film- into spiralling anger.

The last half an hour of the film leads you to believe you know what is going to happen, but believe me- you don’t.


Promising Young Woman is an excellent watch which talks about ‘hush-hush’ topics, not usually deemed appropriate for discussion.

The film keeps you on your toes, making sure you’re unable to tear your eyes away.

In terms of representation of sexual assault and violence, this cinematic piece does an excellent job of not showing too much, making this film appropriate for a wider audience. Whilst the topics and some scenes may be triggering, the film is topical yet respectful of viewers. Discretion advised, but viewing is encouraged!

Trigger warnings for viewing:
- Sexual Assault - Rape - Sexual Violence - Suicide

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