“Promising Young Woman” is Incendiary, Horrifying and the Best Film of the Year

2020 has offered very little in the way of pleasure. Count the COVID-19 pandemic, the crippling economic fallout as a result of it, the complete and utter upheaval of everything that was once perceived as normal just to name a few things. One of the things lost in the wake of this traumatic year has been there art of moviegoing; the never-ending argument of theaters vs. streaming is now unavoidable as big name distributors reconcile with shifting their calendars. The Oscars have extended their eligibility window, while also (begrudgingly?) adjusting their rules to favor films released on streaming services like Netflix. Warner Bros. has decided to put their entire slate of films for the next year to stream exclusively on HBO Max, while others are holding out waiting for normalcy to return.

Going to the movies by myself was something of a weekly tradition; there was nothing more reassuring after a hard week than knowing I could disconnect for a bit, and think of nothing but people on the screen in front of me. Losing that has been difficult, but something I hadn’t really reckoned with until last night when I was fortunate enough to watch a screener of Promising Young Woman in my living room. I’ve been watching movies all year long in my bedroom or my living room, but last night was the first time in a long while that I really thought about how incredible it would have felt to experience this film in a theater with other people. When it ended, I paced around my apartment for a half hour while I tried to process what I had just seen. After everything that’s happened this year, I couldn’t remember the last time a movie had affected me so viscerally; it felt as if I had just been struck by lightning.

Written and directed by Killing Eve show runner Emerald Fennell (though you may recognize her as a young Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall from the most recent season of The Crown), Promising Young Woman is an incendiary and thorny movie, one that is oftentimes just as hilarious as it is horrifying. It’s my favorite film of the year.

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