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Non-Review Review: Promising Young Woman

This film was seen as part of the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2020. Given the high volumes of films being shown and the number of reviews to be written, these may end up being a bit shorter than usual reviews.

Promising Young Woman is a deeply uncomfortable watch. As it should be.

The basic premise of Emerald Fennell’s theatrical debut is decidedly thorny. Cassandra is a thirty-year-old woman who spends her weekends going to bars and acting so drunk that she can barely stand. Inevitably, a “nice guy” arrives to volunteer to help. He usually bundles her into the back of a taxi and takes her back to his place. Then, things get very uncomfortable – particularly when they realise that Cassandra is nowhere near as incapacitated as she appears to be. It’s a hell of a hook.

Promising Young Woman is the kind of film that is going to generate lots and lots of “discourse.” It will stoke strong opinions. It will spark uncomfortable conversations. It is an incredibly loaded film. All of this makes Fennell’s accomplishment all the more impressive. Promising Young Woman is a remarkably confident and assured debut feature, a film which navigates an almost impossibly fraught subject with a surprising amount of charm and wit. Promising Young Woman is heartbreaking and hilarious, raw and riotous, often pivoting between extremes in the space of a single scene. It’s a deft balancing act.

However, the most remarkable thing about Promising Young Woman isn’t just the way that Fennell manages all these tensions within the film. Promising Young Woman manages to create a palpable and compelling tension with the audience – a perfectly calibrated push-and-pull that knows exactly which buttons to push and when, for maximum effect. Promising Young Woman is a film that challenges its audience as much as its characters, and that is what makes it such a striking piece of film-making.

Note: It is probably best to see Promising Young Woman as blind as possible, without any real foreknowledge of what the film is doing or how it does it. This review will not go into too much depth, but discussing the film means discussing some of those mechanics. Consider this a light spoiler warning, and an unqualified recommendation.

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The X-Files – One Breath (Review)

This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

If there were ever any doubt that The X-Files is fundamentally about faith in the nineties, One Breath should put the matter to rest.

An astounding, moving, staggering and thoughtful piece of work, One Breath not only wraps up the arc that opened the second season, it also provides closure to the themes that writers Glen Morgan and James Wong had been seeding throughout this first stretch of the season. One Breath bookends the meditation on faith that began in Little Green Men and serves as a counterpoint to the paranoia of Blood and the nihilism of 3.

One Breath is a tremendous piece of work, the best episode of the season and one that deserves to be mentioned among the very best the show ever produced.

Grave stakes...

Grave stakes…

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