Published on May 31st, 2021 | by Dan Nicholls


Promising Young Woman (Blu ray Review)

As Promising Young Woman arrives on home video, Dan Nicholls takes a look at the movie, commentary, and special features on the blu ray release.

This past year didn’t do many favors for the world but it did work wonders for Emerald Fennell’s directorial debut Promising Young Woman. Had it been released in late spring 2020 as was originally planned, it’s completely perceivable the film would’ve been gone from voters’ minds by the time the standard end-of-year onslaught of Awards Bait rolled out. But in spite of the added benefit of from being one of the few titles released in a calendar year full of disappointments, Promising Young Woman would’ve made its mark in any occasion. It stood out heads and shoulders above a large percentage of its peers and ended up winning the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, while catching an additional four high-profile nominations.

As the dust settles and the political Oscar games hibernate for the summer, it felt like an opportune time to re-visit what I still consider to be one of the best films we were offered last year. A repeat viewing re-frames the experience from that initial unspoiled watch but offers further introspection and insight into the genuine art of the filmmaking on display. Without spoiling the film itself, it’s an absolute high-wire act of tonal balances and shifts that could’ve careened off the road into disaster were it not for the laser-focused attention to detail and unbiased empathy in the words and cinematic language arranged by writer/director Emerald Fennell. 

Starring Carey Mulligan (who at once puts on a show and lays it all bare) as Cassie, Promising Young Woman is a knockout subversive comedy-drama-thriller-horror and a righteous statement for the #MeToo times. In her review for The Feedback Society on the film’s initial release, Jennifer Sparrowhawk aptly states the plot twists (which will go unmentioned here) leave us with “a deliciously cathartic aftertaste.” It’s that combination of trauma followed by release that tumbles within one propulsive and unpredictable scene after another. 

Appreciation for the film can only be further deepened by the fresh and friendly Director’s Commentary. Recorded in November, it’s got the electronically tinny sound of a Zoom call that will forever mark it with a timestamp of the pandemic. Indeed, as Fennell herself states during a hiccup in flow at one point, “It’s not all gonna be gold on the director’s commentary.” The audio quality works in conjunction with its refreshingly on-the-spot narration which enlightens from an artistic standpoint while offering heartfelt goodwill and cheers for the seemingly in-sync cast and crew. Fennell has nothing but effusive praise for everyone and the little spots she points out to highlight the collaborative efforts of her team act as a real showcase of her almost effortless mastering of imagery.

The Blu-ray release features the expected sharp picture and sound and the requisite bare-minimum featurettes:

“A Promising Vision”

This one is pretty spoiler-y so do not watch until you’ve seen the film. It really dives deep into the thematic and cultural aspects of the story. More about the personalities than the process, it gives a bit more to chew on than the usual puff piece featurettes that tend to pad out most home video releases.

“Two-Sided Transformation”

A solid look at star/Executive Producer Carey Mulligan’s complete inhabitation of Cassie, from obvious things like costume and hair to the subtle physical changes that work just as hard to make the performance complete. The mismatch between Cassie’s costumes and her moods, plus the many different “faces” she wears on her nights out in bars, help accentuate the duality of Cassie herself – shades of light and dark existing together.

“Balancing Act”

An entire featurette dedicated to the film’s very specific tone which “sits on the razor’s edge of horrendous and hilarious.” From the comedic performers that populate the supporting cast to frank discussion of the cruelty within some of Cassie’s righteous vengeance, this piece does a lot to further highlight the duality at war within the film’s protagonist.

Promising Young Woman is both artful and entertaining. It disarms you and draws you in while making you face tough questions that don’t have easy answers. It might have been notable to the public at large this past year in part to its very timely subject matter but the filmmaking will be timeless, so it’s a no-brainer to put this one on your shelf. It’ll offer rewards on re-watch after re-watch for years to come.

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is a Vancouver-based, lifelong movie geek who's been a projectionist, critic, director, (accidental) actor, and writer in the industry since E.T. phoned home. @dannicholls

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