In the dark comedy Promising Young Woman, Cassie (Carey Mulligan) works at a coffee shop by day and hunts sexual predators by night. She goes to bars, pretends to be falling down drunk — and then confronts the men who try to take advantage of her.
“When I was growing up — and I think still probably it’s the case now — in movies, getting women drunk to sleep with them, filling up their drink more than you’d fill your own, waiting at the end of the night to see who’s drunk at the club, girls waking up not knowing who’s in bed next to them — it was just comedy fodder,” Fennell says. “We live in a culture where this sort of stuff is normalized.”
Fennell got her start in television as an actor, then worked as the showrunner for the second season of Killing Eve. Promising Young Woman is the first film she’s directed. The movie has been nominated for five Academy Awards, including best director and best original screenplay. Fennell describes the film as “a kind of fantasy — with wish fulfillment” but also as something “much darker and, I hope, more honest than that.”
“I always wanted to make a film, I think, that people would really enjoy and emotionally connect to and find gripping and romantic and all of those things, but [that’s] also not a film that lets anyone off the hook,” she says. “That’s a really interesting position for a filmmaker: to make an audience feel that they’re in familiar territory when they’re not.”