Marianna Aloisio-Seale’s review published on Letterboxd:
I didn't want to log this when I originally watched it as I wanted time for the dust to settle. After an initial viewing, I was really taken by what the film IS and especially where the end wanders into. After thinking more, I realized that I still LIKE Promising Young Woman but that doesn't mean I think it's GOOD.
A lot of the editing and shot composition is really boring! There aren't any strong filmmaking choices in that sense. It seems more that Fennell is more concerned about the writing and directing actors - nothing entirely wrong with that. Though, I expect a film that tries to throw back to the visuals of 1970s exploitation and rape-revenge films to be more engaging.
I've said it over and over again - I am a big defender of rape-revenge films. My masters thesis was on this alone. Without spoiling, I believe the ending is justified and works. The meandering before such is not as strong, however. Tries to be cynical without being harsh. I also do not believe that the film defends Cassie at any point. I wanted more cruelty, more violence, to be frank. There is a giant safety net that sits under the film - the producers walking the tightrope almost ready to fall but never do.
The element of avenging for someone else is common in about a third of rape-revenge films and this fits the bill as well. I have seen some pushback against this very thing, but I don't find it as problematic as something like Death Wish. Through performances, subtext against the text shines through really strong. Almost subtle enough not to notice - to which is where I think people are getting different interpretations about Cassie's intentions and her actions.
Fennell worked on a season of Killing Eve (which I LOVE). I see a toned down version of Villanelle here, though not as complicated and definitely not as relatable (as relatable as Villanelle CAN be). I think there's a lot unexplored that the creatives brush over and attempt too hard to throw in real-world concepts that our current wave of feminism and social justice are having conversations about. I don't need a film to be straight up with me about SAYING what rape culture is, what gender roles specifically in American college settings are.