Nope (2022)

As I watched Jordan Peele’s last movie, NOPE, many things came to mind. The strangeness of experimental grounds, the political aspects of it, the apparent plasticity of story structure becoming as rigid as we all know it tends to be, and many other things I can’t even remember anymore. Yet, above all the ideas I was able to conjure, the one that stood out the most was the established relationship between dealing with dangerous animals and overcoming toxic parental relationships. And in this aspect, among many others, Nope has become the most amazing film I’ve seen all year, no question about it.

I’ve read some critics about the movie and many people say that it doesn’t compare to previous Peele efforts in cinema, mainly Get Out (2017) and Us (2019), I disagree. I think those movies don’t even compare to the scope, epicness, and power of the message this one has. Entering Nope’s world you are deceived into believing you’re watching an alien flick, which there aren’t that many of them, but in reality, you’re watching something completely different, you’re watching at least two things; the rise of African-American action heroes and action myths, and a bold take into those old giant monster movies from the ’70s. But the cleverness of the ideas stated goes beyond anything you’ve seen so far in action or monster movies.

Nope is to monster movies as J.J. Abraham was for Star Trek and the sci-fi genre, it is a groundbreaking territory, it is a contained blockbuster, but blockbuster all along. It definitely has all the elements of it. It has amazing action sequences; it has a charming protagonist (how much can Daniel Kaluuya express without saying a word). It has an awesome soundtrack, and a supporting cast that is as diverse as interesting, distinct personalities fit into what is needed from this ensemble, all in support of each other, all in support of the general idea of the film.

Nope has become the most amazing film I’ve seen all year, no question about it.


But what is the main idea of the film?

As I said before, it is about dealing with dangerous animals, either from the animal kingdom or above, a set of rules is laid out to deal with them, so cleverly that’s even part of the protagonist’s personality. His identity is partially rooted in dealing with dangerous animals and this reflects on why he was able to deal with a “hard to swallow” father. The crazy thing is that at the beginning of the movie we kinda dislike him because of his withdrawn attitude (as if forgetting his father has just died on his watch) because it seems that he’s avoiding something. But, at the same time, we see him, again and again, facing danger on the face, not looking back, and entirely on his own. And we get to see what happens to others while facing dangerous animals because of the Gordy sequence (a must-watch), others who don’t have what he has obviously.

I guess most people were expecting to watch an alien flick or a horror movie, but Nope is not that. Maybe that’s the reason for the name. This is no alien movie, this is the rising of a new type of hero, not the ones you’ll find in classic action flicks like Top Gun (in which the protagonist is overconfident and takes everything for himself), but something else, you’re gonna find teamwork that enhances individual courage, you’re gonna find cleverly exposed plot lines that don’t even need over the top excuses because it is in the idea ground that Nope goes beyond and above, and I can safely say that there’s no movie like this one. Haters prepare, because this is what happens when a creator gets complete freedom to explore, and I’m not surprised that general audiences are not prepared for it, they hardly ever are.

Cure (1997)

There are movies that offer meaning at face value, you get what you paid for. They might have an intricate exterior, beautiful and provoking cinematography, fantastic set design, and an elaborated editing scheme; all aesthetic devices used to evoke the illusion of complexity. Yet there are other movies that are deceitfully simple in production design, but incredibly complex in their story and theme exploration. Movies like the latter can pass through regular viewers as boring and even bad ones, mainly because of the lack of commonality they have with mainstream media but also because of their groundbreaking nature.

Cure is such a film.

This amazing movie by director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, which many people consider his best one, is an exemplary exploration of the human condition, of the reality of unconscious desire hidden underneath a fragile exterior of normality. In it, we find a hypnotizer who seems not to remember even his own life, maybe hypnotized himself, meeting people randomly and suggesting them commit murders throughout the city. This obviously catches the attention of the police, more so because all the victims present the same cut pattern on their necks, a cross mark in the flesh.

And so, we meet our protagonist, Kenichi Takabe, a detective tormented by a mentally unstable wife, trying to keep up with a life he no longer enjoys. Yet this is not the type of detective willing to analyze clues or find patterns in the crime scene. We immediately understand that he wants to get to the bottom of things rather fast, as he’s on the verge of desperation about his own problems. There are many things that exacerbate the situation for him. For starters, none of the killers, the hypnotized ones, remembers what happened to them. Worst than that, eventually, Takabe finds the hypnotizer, a strange guy named Mamiya. Questioning him for answers proves futile as this character can only respond with more questions, making conversation not only pointless but annoying to the breaking point.

And thus, we come to realize the truth about the story, progressing towards the inevitable end, which I won’t spoil but be warned, from here on there are spoilers.

There’s one thing to keep in mind to understand what’s going on, the primordial piece of the puzzle. There’s one scene where Takabe gets the idea about the real killer being a hypnotizer, he asks Sakuma, a psychiatrist, and Takabe’s friend, about it.  The question is; are hypnotized people capable of killing? Sakuma answers with a blatant no, there’s no way to hypnotize a person out of their own moral choices. Yet most of the hypnotized people committed the murders.

Do you get the idea?

Some people make a comparison between Cure and Se7en, both no more than two years apart from each other. I got the same feeling while watching the movie and can say that there’s definitely some connection there, but there’s also a world of difference in the depth and complexity of each movie. As I said in the beginning, there are movies that want to make you believe there’s something complex being posed behind curtains, while others are so complex that they might pass blindly between your eyes.

By the way, researching the film I came across an amazing video essay about this movie, made by YouTuber Jack Gordon, you can check it here:

Casablanca (1942)

Wow, Casablanca, the classic of classics and I finally got to see it, after all those times I came across it on TV and immediately switched to another channel, after all those times I heard other people say it was a unique jewel in the world’s filmography, after all those times I threw up when I heard words like “romance”, “passion” and “impossible love” to describe the plot of this 1942 film, directed by Michael Curtiz and starring the charismatic Humphrey Bogard as Rick Blaine and Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund. After watching it, I can say without fear of being wrong, that yes… this movie is really special, both for its story and its characters, but it is also interesting because of the space in which the events take place and how this space echoes with all the other elements of the story. I’m referring to the political and social context, the geographical point where the story takes place (from the city of Casablanca to Rick’s bar and everything in between), all elements masterfully orchestrated to produce a powerful story about how external circumstances tend to shape our decisions and how our emotions tend to prolong conflicts, up to the point where we decide to take charge of the situation and manage to change destiny.

But wait… what’s Casablanca about? Well it’s about this guy, Rick Blaine, who owns Rick’s bar, a place where a bunch of refugees (mostly) try to escape Europe in the middle of WWII. In Rick’s bar they find one of the only places to have a nice time in the midst of the chaos of war. The thing is that Rick starts the movie with a selfish attitude, he only thinks about saving himself and does not interfere in other people’s affairs, not even in favor of friends or acquaintances. Now, this attitude also serves him to maintain a close relationship with Captain Louis Renault, who is in charge of Casablanca and also makes him pass under the radar of Major Strasser and the troop of Nazis who have come to Casablanca in search of Victor Laszlo, an activist against Nazism and active voice of the European resistance against the Germans. It is here that Rick and Victor’s paths cross, though not because of the war, but because Victor Laszlo’s wife is Ilsa Lund, Rick’s old girlfriend who has jilted him in France on the day of the Nazi occupation, the day Rick begins his journey to Casablanca. At the beginning of the film, Rick gets hold of some stolen passports that will allow anyone to use them to escape from Casablanca. Victor and Ilsa’s goal is to escape Casablanca before they are killed by the Nazis, do you see where the whole thing is going?

Before we go any further, let’s talk a little about the character of Rick Blaine, played by Humphrey Bogart. As I said earlier, Rick begins the story with a selfish stance on the whole war thing and other people’s problems. Even when an acquaintance is captured by the Nazis, Rick merely says that he doesn’t stick his neck out for nobody. Rick also doesn’t usually drink with other people and doesn’t accept anyone’s invitation if he can help it. But the situation changes radically when Ilsa and Laszlo arrive in Casablanca. From this moment on, Rick cannot help but show a different side of his personality, one that is more empathetic, but also more passionate, to the surprise of his acquaintances and to Ilsa’s pain, since Rick does not delay in letting her know the damage she has caused him by abandoning him in Paris.
Now, what happened in Paris? The thing is that Ilsa was dating Rick when the Nazis came to destroy everything. Rick had a plan to escape with Ilsa and his eternal companion, the pianist Sam Wilson. But everything goes to hell when Ilsa doesn’t show up at the train station, instead she sends a letter tersely explaining the situation (basically that they won’t see each other again). It is from this moment that Rick decides to send everyone to hell and focus on living a meaningless life, sheltered in his bar from the calamities of the world.

But the arrival of Ilsa and Victor Laszlo brings other unforeseen consequences in Rick’s life. One of them is found in perhaps the most dramatic scene of the film. I refer to the scene where the Nazis have taken over the bar and are singing the German anthem, but are interrupted by Laszlo and the brass band, when Rick instructs them to follow Laszlo’s order to play the Marseillaise. It is here that the change begins in Rick, who no longer appears as an outsider to the political conflict, but takes matters into his own hands. After the Nazis decide to close the bar and ban the festivities, Rick learns the truth about Ilsa’s disappearance. It turns out that she was already married to Victor before she met Rick, but when Victor leaves to face the war and after a long time in which Ilsa has no news about his whereabouts, she makes the decision to continue her life with Rick, just then, she receives news about Victor, who is alive.

Is destiny nothing but a cruel machine of anticipated tears?

Well, I prefer not to tell you the end of the story so as not to ruin the experience, although being honest, I think that when you see the ending you will realize that you have seen it before in countless parodies and homages, because that final scene and its dialogues are already part of the DNA of American cinema. That’s Casablanca, a movie about a guy who doesn’t want to get involved in war because of heartache, living in a neutral place (not being a villain or anyone’s ally) until someone else comes along to remind him that there are things in life worth fighting for and that sometimes being neutral can do more harm than trying to take a more concrete stand.

Greenland (2020)

Greenland is the plot of Deep Impact as seen from the point of view of 2020. What do I mean by that? I mean that director Ric Roman Waugh has decided to use a single point of view, more individual than the multiple characters that make up the plot of the second film, which I suppose had been used to present multiple sides to the problem of a comet crashing into Earth with devastating consequences for all life on the planet. I remember in that movie there was a president, some reporters, their families and a normal kid with a normal family. Now come to think of it, a president and reporters jump out at us if we think about how we would experience this cataclysmic event by watching TV (90s culture at a glance). However, Greenland does nothing of the sort, no one stares at the television (well, the people who weren’t selected I believe do), the characters are thrown into the adventure relentlessly from the moment they realize the gravity of the situation. It is in this space of time as the characters fight for the hope of surviving the apocalypse that they also face the limits of a selfish survivalist mentality, but also the limit in empathy and concern for others when faced with a situation of extreme danger.

But wait… what’s Greenland about? Well, well… it’s about John Garrity, a cheating father/husband and structural engineer, who is initially debating the purpose of life, being hung up on his family (almost losing them). Ironically, the catastrophic, yet initially interesting, situation of gathering with friends and family to watch an asteroid in the sky on TV gives him the budding opportunity to win back his own, when it becomes apparent that the asteroid will not only pass through the sky, but will fall on the earth and hard. Amidst the growing fear of the people, as they realize the gravity of the situation, John receives a phone message, he and his family have been chosen to be protected from the deep impact (not pun intended) inside bunkers that the government has had prepared since the the cold war. John convinces his wife Allison to take their son and leave quickly, to the confusion of the rest of his friends and family. He does so because he understands the gravity of the situation and is unwilling to complicate his own survival or that of his family. This leads him to refuse help to his neighbors, including a neighbor who begs him to take her young daughter. This initial conviction of “worrying about his own survival and closing his heart to the rest” is put to the test in several parts of the film and until the end, where this very debate of helping or not helping others becomes the key that opens the doors to the possibility of salvation.

Let’s think a little bit about the main character’s arc in relation to this idea to be discussed about saving oneself vs. helping others. John Garrick is a cheating husband, he was going through a complex situation in his marriage and decided for himself, he decided to be unfaithful. A morally glorified person might say that this makes him a bad person. However, if John were not a selfish bastard he might have thought of staying with his neighbors and sharing the same fate, he might have agreed to help the neighbor who was desperately asking him to take her daughter. Taking into consideration; A) that the plot of the movie is not structured in that way, B) that doing either of these two things would have greatly reduced his chances of survival (in fact he is almost left out himself in the scene where a plane can’t support any more weight and they can only carry 2 people) and more importantly, C) that John’s goal is to protect and save his family (that includes himself), it is interesting to learn the practical value of selfishness in pursuit of survival and let’s agree also, of the survival of the family. But that’s not the end of it, because nothing works the same way every time. When John and Allison lose the opportunity to enter the military planes heading for the bunkers and after being separated from each other, they both are forced to ask for help from other people, not to save themselves, but to find each other again. So… before they can save themselves, John and Allison have to find a way to get back together and this situation takes two separate perspectives for each character. For John this translates into the decision to get off the military plane when he realizes that his wife and son are down, that they have been taken down because John’s son has diabetes. So, John does not want to save himself if it means losing his family, demonstrating through this and in his desperate actions in pursuit of reuniting with his loved ones, that he is remorseful and that he loves his wife and son more than anything in the world. Allison’s case takes another turn, let’s say a more concrete one. After losing John at the military base, she assumes that she has lost her husband and decides to try her luck at her father’s house (demonstrating with this and with her nervousness that she is not prepared to face the situation on her own). This decision has two consequences, the first being that, by choosing a contingency plan and leaving a note in the car, should John arrive there, Allison lays the groundwork for the reunion. The second consequence is that Allison is exposed to a desperate couple who offer to give her a ride near her father’s house, but on the way learn that she is wearing a “Chosen” bracelet, as is her son. The desperate couple end up taking her son, the bracelet and throwing Allison out of the car and into her own mini-story within the overall story, the road to gain the strength to make the trip to her father’s house without help from her husband or her father (well she cheats in the end, but she came pretty close!). Along the way, Allison learns the differences between trusting a stranger when you have something of transcendent value (salvation) and trusting a stranger when you have nothing (which happens after losing everything, obviously). It is then that both Allison and we the viewers realize the value of people who dedicate their lives to public service, military and health personnel, the archetype they represent in the culture, the guiding and decisive figure in times of catastrophe.

The debate on selfishness and altruism ends after two scenes towards the end of the film. In the first, John manages to get his family to safety under a bridge in the midst of a meteor shower, then dives out into the open to save the life of a person trapped inside a car, burning his hand in the process. That burn finally becomes his ticket to salvation, when he has to beg the pilot of a small commercial airliner for a space for his family. So, after all this conversation, what can we say? Does empathy only work when it does not prevent survival? Is it that caring about oneself and nothing else is not enough to access salvation? From the way the ending is written I think the idea is something like “helping others brings us one step closer to salvation” if we think that every action of the characters that went in the direction of saving themselves might have initially seemed like a step towards salvation, but that in reality these actions took them further and further away from the goal and it wasn’t until they were both fighting for more than themselves, primarily for others (family) and ultimately for everyone (when John leads the rest of the people to the ultimate place of salvation) that the characters came close enough to the light to find in it the attainment of their goal.

The Vast of Night (2019)

The Vast of Night is a film that went somewhat unnoticed since its release, on the Amazon Prime platform (is that why?) during 2019, but it certainly stands out for its cinematography, production design, and snappy narrative, despite the large amount of dialogue that makes it up. Within the narrative possibilities within the film genre, I believe that films like The Vast of Night (as well as Hereditary, a film we reviewed previously) fall into what I would call “punitive films”, I mean films where the protagonist has to pay a high price for his moral and psychological failures (as opposed to a normal film, where the protagonist ends up learning a lesson and overcoming the difficulties). In this sense, the film directed by Andrew Patterson follows the ancestral logic of “curiosity killed the cat”, with negative consequences for both the protagonist and his loved ones (John Truby would be proud of this story).

Okay but… What is “The Vast of Night” about? The story centers on one night in a small town in America during the 1950s. The main characters are, Everett Sloan, who is the local radio announcer and his friend (love interest?) Fay Crocker, a radio operator (she actually communicates phone calls). The thing is, Fay intercepts a strange sound that is sneaking in between the phone conversations, causing the communications to be cut off. The same strange sound is picked up on Everett’s radio transmission, which is why Fay decides to warn Everett about the noise. When Everett hears the strange noise, which is disrupting communications, he decides to record it and broadcast it on his radio program, with the intention of arousing the interest of someone who knows where the sound is coming from. This action prompts an ex-military man to contact the radio and deliver information about the sound, it is visitors from another world and they are in the sky over the town tonight. The news adds to a slew of people calling Fay, warning about something strange they’ve seen in the sky outside of town. Initially, Everett thinks it’s either Soviet Union planes or spy satellites, and it piques his interest, as he wants to become famous enough to leave town and pursue a radio career in California. It is for this reason that Everett embarks on a hunt for information, along with Fay (who wants to be with Everett and support him) that leads them to find a secret tape, to retransmit a message similar to the sound of the transmissions, to make “contact” thanks to the retransmission and then, inevitably, to learn the truth and to pay a high cost for their curiosity.

Beyond the science fiction aspects, which are interesting in themselves, I think the story rests mostly on both main characters, a duo that at times can remind us of a young Fox Mulder and Dana Scully (The X-Files), they show a similar couple dynamic, although Everett has less empathy for his partner than Mulder (at times his lack of concern is annoying), although he makes up for it in charisma and enthusiasm. This character arc is extremely interesting, especially as it takes place in the space of an hour and a half, which is the length of the film and also the actual time within the story, which occurs during a basketball game, where most of the people in town are gathered in one place. Everett starts the story as a kind of teacher for Fay, teaching him the art of being a radio announcer while they go around the basketball stadium interviewing people, then they head to town, which is practically deserted because of the basketball game and they say goodbye to each other to go to work. However, since Fay intercepts the strange noise, Everett appears again and again (each time worse and worse) as a person blinded by the desire to get an exclusive regardless of the consequences (which Fay asks about several times). During the midpoint of the story, which is when Everett rebroadcasts the signal and the aliens cut the power at the radio station (in what is clearly a warning of the danger of the whole thing), Everett reacts by grabbing a portable recorder and continues transmitting, leaving Fay behind and showing no concern for her or the situation. It is not until Everett and Fay interview Mrs. Blanche and get the truth about what is going on that Everett realizes the gravity of the events, although, by that point, he can no longer back off (in part because he has managed to bring more people into the affair) and this leads him to inevitably fall into the clutches of the aliens.

As I said before, the events that are recreated in the film are presented with a great emphasis on dialogue, it is a constant and frantic search (mostly because of the fear and strangeness of the situation) to know what is happening, for the opportunity presented to an ambitious but irresponsible character, to make contact with forces that are beyond the ordinary. I think the film is 80% expository dialogue, something that all screenwriting gurus have pointed out ad nauseam as an amateur mistake, but which here works to perfection. What does this tell us? Well, to me it means that the problem is not in writing or not writing expository dialogues, but that there are situations in which it works and situations in which it doesn’t work. I mean that there are types of information that can be interesting to hear in expository form, such as paranormal events that provoke the imagination, which is different from when a character tells us about something he has just done (explaining it), which is the most common way to use expository dialogue wrongly.

That’s all I’ll say about The Vast of Night, one of those films that stand out only for the masterful narrative work, in the dialogues full of sense and humanity, in solid performances that deliver all the necessary information, in the minimalist use of science fiction paraphernalia. The best, in my opinion, of the whole film appears in Everett’s character arc, a well-built character, with personal ambitions and a charismatic personality but full of flaws (mostly lack of empathy) that lead him straight into the trap of the antagonist and that, even worse, endangers a person who cares about him and a baby! Ohhh the humanity!

Dark Skies (2013)

Dark Skies, a strange movie… to begin with I don’t think I saw any images of dark skies during the whole movie, in fact, I don’t think I even saw a shot of the starry sky. Well then… where are the dark skies? I don’t know, but what I do know is that what starts out as a messy film in the way it builds up tension (especially during the first act) manages after a while to build up an interesting and especially tense tale, even hitting some Kubrickian notes near the end that make it worth giving it a thought. But I have to be honest, I have a personal bias for this movie and for the alien abduction movie genre. I feel it’s the last great myth left in culture, the only place within the collective unconscious from which disturbing stories can be rescued to develop horror narratives. Horror films have always drawn from religious cultural lore (mostly) and with the fall of religious belief, the “death of God” and magical thinking over the last decades, can anyone really say that they have felt fear watching a horror film? Well, I can say that I felt fear watching Dark Skies and that is why we are going to talk about this film.

But it’s true what I said at the beginning, the film starts off in a rather disorganized way and I think this is due to two factors. The first one is an attempt (at least it seems so) to emulate in certain aspects Signs by M. Night. Shyamalan, I’m referring specifically to the plot involving the older brother of the family which only pays off in retrospect (and doesn’t really pay off much) after the final sequence. This plot involves the boy’s passage into adolescence and many of these scenes feel really disconnected from the rest of the story. The other factor that plays into the rocky start of the story is the way the plot moves in the beginning, by which I mean the beginning of the “attack,” the moment when the aliens begin to manifest themselves in the lives of the characters. At least the first two signs of their arrival at the protagonists’ house I feel don’t work at all. At the beginning, the mother finds the food outside the refrigerator (this leads to the hypothesis of an animal attack during the night). Then, certain elements in the kitchen are rearranged in a mathematical way (and we know about this tangentially because the father of the family indicates it and because we know he is an architect). The first time we see an alien is in a drawing that the youngest son makes after commenting that he has been talking to the “Sandman” (an ancient device of Western mythology, you know, of that magical thinking that no longer works), such a drawing reminds us of a lot of old movies that have used the same device ad nauseam.

So far anyone could say that this movie is just another in a long line of horror movies with exactly the same plot. That plot Blake Snider calls “the monster in the house” in his infamous book “Save the Cat”. And a lot of them wouldn’t be wrong, unless… maybe they are wrong, because, admittedly, up to this point the film doesn’t work very well, except perhaps for the element that I feel keeps the film cohesive until the end, the relationship between the parents of the family and the growing tension that forms between them. If the poorly constructed paranormal manifestations haven’t grabbed your attention up to this point, I feel you couldn’t help but be interested in the problems that arise between the two main characters. The problem is that the father has been out of work for some time and the mother has to work for both of them. Also, the father’s relationship with the older son is not the best since the latter has started to become interested in women. What I mean by all this is that, although the film fails at the beginning to present us with the main conflict or does it in an unsatisfactory way, what it does do well is to introduce us to the characters, all of them interesting and well constructed.

But the plot catches up with us after what I feel is the first really disturbing event (and consistent with the alien abduction lore, for those who know it) in the story, occurs when the young son has a catatonic episode playing with other children in the neighborhood square. Up to this point we know that the father is suffering because he hasn’t gotten a job and we’ve seen family arguments culminating in this scene, where the father is completely overcome by his son’s reaction and doesn’t know how to help him. From here on, the story takes on a different tone, one of a constant sense of stalking and growing paranoia, especially in the mother, who is the first to “see” one of the aliens inside the house. The situation escalates rapidly as the characters begin to lose control of their own lives and worse, their bodies, some of them coming to move unknowingly during the night and having seizures consistent with the emotional expression of traumatic events they cannot remember. All this until the moment when the mother decides to start researching about these events and ends up arriving at an internet page that explains everything that is happening to them via “extraterrestrial abductions”. But the father is not willing to believe in this explanation, especially after finally finding a job. However, things get worse to the point where he himself manages to see the strange beings that visit his family during the night.

After this, the parents decide to visit an abduction expert, who tells them the truth about the matter, there is nothing they can do to stop what is happening to them, moreover, he warns them that, when aliens show themselves to people, it is because they are going to take a family member with them. I’m not going to tell specific things about the ending so as not to spoil it for anyone, I’ll just repeat that this is where the plot about the oldest son pays off and it really doesn’t work much. What does work is the way the final confrontation is designed, it makes you wish the whole movie had been this way. Anyway, the truth is that Dark Skies is a film that starts off badly but has a very good second act and a satisfying third act. Besides that, it is a film that dares to explore the extraterrestrial phenomenon under the logic of horror movies, something I don’t understand why it is not done more. Considering that the material at hand is actually terrifying, at least more so than demonic attacks or the fiftieth coming of the antichrist.

The good:

  • The presentation of the emotional traumas that are a product of the abductions.
  • The acting of Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton.
  • The cinematography of the final battle.

The bad:

  • The beginning of the film is uninteresting.

Promising Young Woman (2020)

Promising Young Woman is the debut feature, written and directed by Emerald Fennell. And it is a film that will surely not leave anyone indifferent to seeing it, especially in this era, where the plot takes on a really deep and critical sense of today’s society, the role of women and their liberation, which is what we are experiencing now (is anyone in doubt?). And sure we have moved on from “A Doll’s House” (1879), Henrik Ibsen’s play that portrayed the beginnings of discord between the archetypal personalities of men and women, the latter relegated to a childish state of companionship that, through the realization that the relationship between both parties was no less than unjust, derived in the departure, the liberation of the feminine spirit and a step into the unknown, towards a freedom without spaces to live it within the classic social structure of the time. Well, but why did I start talking about Ibsen if we’re supposed to be talking about Promising Young Woman, I understand, look, the thing is that I feel that this film portrays this very thing I just said, this freedom without spaces to live it, because I feel that, deep down, the story portrays a reality in which women cannot be who they want to be, because of the amount of sexual predators that abound around them. The Nora Helmers of the world (the main character of A Doll’s House) who cannot be doctors (this is the profession that the protagonist of Promising Young Woman studied) because a lot of men abuse them and drive them to suicide, who keep the protagonist of the film locked up in her parents’ house, because of the fear that has stuck to her skin and the probable consequences of all this, that is what this story is about.

But, what is the movie about? Is it recommended to watch it with your boyfriend/girlfriend? Let’s take it one step at a time. The film is about Cassandra, a woman who dropped out of medical school after losing her best friend, who committed suicide after being abused by a group of classmates. The main character’s objective is to take justice into her own hands, to get revenge on all the people involved in the matter, in an attempt to clarify the facts before the public, since she will not let those involved have a happy life after having caused the death of her friend. Now, the forms that the protagonist occupies are really interesting, because what at first may seem or sound like an excessively violent film, in fact, this is what the first sequence insinuates and then mocks, really takes on a completely different tone. The point is that the film moves on the borderline between what is legally possible and what is illegal, in an effort to keep the plot anchored to reality and the possibilities of a female character who is not particularly strong physically, but has to act in intelligent and planning ways to achieve her goals. Now, some people will tell me that I’m being sexist by saying that women don’t have strength, but… I didn’t say that, what I’m saying is that the story is built that way, the main character is a thin, short woman, she accepts it herself in one of the most interesting scenes of the film (the part where a behavior from her new boyfriend repeats itself, a behavior that alerts about who this person really is). The thing is that I feel that the film shows that it is not necessary to have physical strength to achieve goals in life, what is really needed is the courage to face problems.

Okay, now for the second question, is it advisable to watch this movie with your partner? This point is more delicate I feel… one thing we have to keep in mind, especially for the male audience, is that the film is extremely critical in this respect. Let’s say that men are left out of the story, in fact, there is no man in the film that is saved from moral scrutiny. During the first part of the film, even before the middle point of the story (the middle point of the story is usually when the main character finds what she was looking for) we meet a series of archetypes of sexual predators that the main character attracts to her in order to confront them and make them understand that what they are doing is wrong. This is the way she tries to face these emotions that she has not been able to release. Now, these representations of men can hurt the sensitivity of more than one member of the audience. I say this because they are portraits that we would not want to be real, but they are probably very close to reality. All these men who seek sexual satisfaction at any price, who use certain techniques to gain the woman’s trust, to make her drop her guard, with the simple objective of having sex. But the film has a position on this and I think it’s a very logical position, the problem is not the game of seduction, the problem is not respecting the limits that women impose on the subject. If the woman says she wants to go home, if the woman says she doesn’t want to do anything, this is a limit that sexual predators seem not to be able to understand and that, described in the film, is the genesis of sexual abuse. I say this because the protagonist of the film maintains the desire to form a relationship with a man, despite what has happened to her friend. Perhaps she does this because her parents are pressuring her to leave the house, because that is the expectation of others, because she doesn’t have money to live alone, we don’t know. But it is this desire that finally leads her to make the most risky decision in the film, after suffering a huge disappointment. So, as you can see, it is a film that can generate more than a little noise in couples and I feel that it is something that has to happen, because it is better to live in truth than in illusions, isn’t it?

Well, that’s what I can say about Promising Young Woman, a film with an interesting and controversial plot that is worth watching and reflecting on. In cinematic terms, I feel that it has a dramatic problem. In the beginning, a type of story is put together, a woman who attracts sexual predators to stop them, which is then left behind in pursuit of another type of narrative, the same woman plans and executes a plan to get revenge on the people involved in her friend’s death. The protagonist goes from one type of plan to another without any explanation and the transition scene looks more like a joke than anything else (the scene where the protagonist’s new boyfriend finds her with another man). Apart from that, I think the story has a lot in its favor, especially being the director’s first film. The protagonist’s journey, the way her emotions are released and the climax of her revenge are all outstanding aspects of the narrative, which remains on the edge of legality and completely anchored to reality until the end.

The good stuff:

  • The protagonist’s journey and Carey Mulligan’s performance.
  • The film’s climax, merciless but real.

The bad:

  • Some problems in the plot.

In short, watch it or die!