Hi, this is Barry and welcome to my website. Promising Young Woman is a 2020 crime drama written and directed by Emerald Fennell; this is her first full-length film. The story revolves around a 30-year-old medical school dropout who lives with her parents and cannot move past a traumatic incident in the past for which she seeks revenge. The Promising Young Woman cast has Carey Mulligan doing all the heavy lifting with supporting roles by Alison Brie (Horse Girl), Bo Burnham and even Alfred Molina in a small part. It’s a great film which leaves you feeling a little empty in the end. Here’s a quick plot summary and the ending of the movie Promising Young Woman.
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Here are links to the key aspects of the movie:
Promising Young Woman: Who is Nina? What happened to Nina?
Nina was Cassie’s closest friend, almost like a sister. During a medical school party, Nina gets very drunk. Cassie is not with her. A group of male students decide to take her to one of the rooms, and Al Munroe sexually assaults her while Joe records the whole thing and the rest watch on cracking jokes.
Did Nina Kill Herself?
Yes. The video of Nina’s assault goes viral in the medical school, and in embarrassment, Nina drops out and eventually commits suicide. Due to her grief, Cassie is unable to carry on with school and drops out too.
Promising Young Woman: What Did Ryan Do?
Ryan did nothing. That’s right, nothing; he stood and watched as Al assaulted a very drunk Nina. He had the power to stop Al or Joe, but he didn’t; it was all fun and games to him too.
Promising Young Woman: Did Cassie Kill Anyone? Did She Kill The Guys?
No, Cassie didn’t kill anyone; we’re only made to think that. Her book only has all the names of the guys she scared the daylights out of. Years after dropping out of medical school, Cassie does odd jobs and at nights makes it her mission to act hopelessly drunk at some party. Every time she encounters a guy who approaches claiming to help her and eventually tries to take advantage of her situation. Ensuring the guy is sufficiently drunk, Nina drops her drunk act and threatens the guy in a psychotic tone. Thus ensuring that he doesn’t try to take advantage of any other drunk woman. Cassie wears makeup accordingly to ensure she appears to be a different woman each time.
Promising Young Woman: Quick Plot Summary
After years of living in solitude, Cassie becomes a cold woman living with her parents, who cannot cheer her up or get her to find a better job (and leave home). One day Ryan happens to run into Cassie and the two fall in love. Cassie doesn’t know of Ryan’s presence when Nina was assaulted.
Cassie learns that Al, who had left the country, is now back to get married, and she begins taking revenge on each of the people responsible for Nina’s death.
Cassie gets Madison sufficiently drunk and then questions her about Nina. After all these years, Madison still believes that it was Nina’s fault for getting that drunk. Cassie has paid a guy to take Madison to a room in the hotel and act like the two had sex. Madison, unable to recollect anything, is made to feel the same agony Nina felt.
Dean Elizabeth Walker
Cassie tricks Elizabeth’s daughter into thinking that her favourite boy band will show up at a diner. After leaving her there, Cassie meets the dean under the pretext of wanting to resume her education. After confirming that the dean still feels that Al’s career was more important than his punishment for what he did, Cassie lies, saying she left the dean’s daughter in the same room Nina was assaulted and a bunch of boys are presently assaulting her daughter. After getting a confession from the dean that she was wrong, Cassie discloses that the dean’s daughter is safe.
Lawyer Jordan Green
Cassie meets Jordan, who once harassed Nina to drop the charges against Al. But he falls to his knees and apologizes to Cassie, saying what he did to Nina was heinous. Cassie forgives him and asks the thug, who she had arranged to beat the lawyer silly, to stand down.
Carrie meets Nina’s mom, who urges her to move on, and Cassie does. She deletes her social account and abandons her quest for revenge. Cassie begins a relationship with Ryan. But Madison happens to visit Cassie and hand over a phone which has the video of Nina’s assault. Cassie is devastated finding Ryan in Nina’s video as a bystander having fun. Cassie decides to carry forward with her revenge and gets the location of Al’s bachelor party from Ryan threatening him with the video.
Cassie lands up at the cabin posing as a stripper. She drugs everyone at the party and takes Al upstairs and cuffs him to the bed, discloses who she is, and tries to carve Nina’s name on him. But Al’s hands come free, and he suffocates and kills Cassie … ummm .. WHAT?
Promising Young Woman Ending Explained: Did Cassie Mean To Die? Why does she die?
No, Cassie didn’t plan to die. Practically every viewer felt, “how could she DIE?”. Well, this film is a revenge story that is only partly successful. Cassie’s plan failed, and Al overpowers her and kills her. Joe and Al secretly burn her body. However, the ending of Promising Young Woman reveals that Cassie had already posted the video to the lawyer Jordan telling him that she’s headed to the cabin and that he should contact the cops if she goes missing. Soon enough, Cassie’s parents file a missing person’s report, and Jordan goes to the cops.
What Happened To Al Munroe?
The authorities scout the area around the cabin and find Cassie’s burned remains. Doesn’t all DNA get destroyed when a body is burned, you ask? Well, bone fragments will have enough DNA to prove that this was Cassie’s body. Considering the note and the video, there is enough reason to arrest Al as a suspect for Cassie’s murder. There is no direct evidence proving that he murdered her, but even a hair follicle of hers in the cabin could be incriminating considering the video and the past. Even if Al somehow wiggles out of a jail sentence, his life is still ruined.
Promising Young Woman Ending: Who Sent The Texts?
Cassie has scheduled these texts to Ryan, assuming that she might not make it out alive from the cabin. She times her text on the wedding day, hoping that her missing person’s report would lead to the arrest on that day, and her wish is granted. Al Munroe’s arrest could have totally happened a day before or a day after, but the film makes the ending dramatic.
What Happened To Ryan? Does Ryan Get Arrested?
Well, Ryan didn’t disclose any knowledge about Cassie’s whereabouts to the detective, but that video would be enough to damage his reputation and ruin his career. However, there is no direct connection to the murder, so he’s doesn’t get arrested.
What Happened To Joe?
Al is likely to squeal the authorities about Joe being his partner in crime. But it is one man’s word against another’s and doesn’t guarantee jail time for Joe. But he’s the one who shot the video, so that’s going to taint his reputation.
Promising Young Woman: Closing Thoughts
Mulligan agreed. She said they filmed a scene that didn’t make it into the movie in which Cassie had a bruise on her hand, showing that one of her evenings seeking bad men in bars “had gone wrong.” She knows she’s always putting herself in danger, and in the case of Al’s bachelor party, “she knows that that’s a very, very strong possibility” that she might die. But to Cassie, “it’s worth the immense risk.”
I imagined Cassie would play dead when she was being suffocated by the pillow. She wouldn’t stop struggling even though Al was screaming for just that. It felt like Cassie was done and wanted to die at that point; she wanted to go down fighting. Playing dead could have gotten her the upper hand again, considering Al was still cuffed by one hand.
Cassie knew that she was taking a considerable risk walking into a house filled with guys who’d do anything to protect themselves. I even thought Cassie had a camera in her bag live streaming the event in the bedroom so that it is solid evidence to take Al out. I admit I got that from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. All that build-up in the film makes the end feel unsatisfactory, but I believe that was by design. Not all revenge stories has the plan being played out to the T. Cassie used what she could to plot and scheme, and that’s how far it took her. Every night she put herself out there could have ended brutally for her. She knew what she was walking into, and that’s why she had a plan-B. But would this result in a guilty verdict for Al and Joe? We don’t know.
What were your thoughts on Promising Young Woman and its ending? Do drop your comments below.
Barry is a technologist who helps start-ups build successful products. His love for movies and production has led him to write his well-received film explanation and analysis articles to help everyone appreciate the films better. He’s regularly available for a chat conversation on his website and consults on storyboarding from time to time.
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