Emerald Fennell, who wrote, directed, and co-produced A promising young woman, made many good choices when writing the screenplay. Let’s start with things not shown, like what Carrie Mulligan’s character1, Cassie, does with all the men picking her up (or does she pick them?) under false pretenses. What is that red streak dripping down her arm walking home the morning after? Are the red, black, and blue notches she jots down with her gunner pen for each man a matter of convenience or a code for their fate? How much of a psycho is she?
Another good choice: the (never-shown!) sexual assault that underpins much of the plot is set in a medical school. Medical education selects for conformity, which is on one hand understandable (why fight windmills and ruin your chance for a secure and often lucrative income?) but on the other leads to willful blindness to many misdeeds.2 Some may be surprised by the bad turns some seemingly good characters take by the end of the movie, but to anyone who’s gone to medical school it would have been true to personal experience. Parallels to other nice-guy professionals — lawyers, let’s say — draw themselves.
Yes, the movie is topical, drawing on current events, trending hashtags and rising fears. Thankfully, that doesn’t stop it from being damn good, and well worth a rewatch or two.
Carrie Mulligan is, of course, the best Dr. Who companion that never was, and an integral part of the best Dr. Who episode ever made. I wonder sometimes if Sally Sparrow and Larry Nightingale would really have been Doctor’s companions — or at least had a spinoff series of their own — if Mulligan hadn’t been such a great actress with other opportunities presenting themselves soon after Blink. ↩
During one memorable residency interview I (as the applicant, not the interviewer) was asked a question on (un)professionalism. My impromptu answer was about my own silence to a misdeed witnessed as a medical student in Serbia, with a young inpatient being kept in the dark about her diagnosis of advanced multiple myeloma, and us as students shrugging our collective shoulders as she peppered us with questions about bone health. Not my proudest moment as a med student, doctor, or a human being, but I ended up matching to that very program so, yay? Bad deeds rarely go unrewarded. ↩