Promising Young Woman – Blu-ray Review

Amazon Commissions Earned

Film Title: Promising Young Woman (2020)
Release Date: 2021
Rating: R
Runtime: 114 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Distributor: Universal
Audio Format: DTS-HD MA 7.1
Aspect Ratio(s): 2.39:1
Version Reviewed: Blu-ray
Amazon Commissions Earned
Blu-ray Release Date: 3/16/21
Director: Emerald Fennell
Cast: Carey MulliganBo BurnhamAlison BrieTimothy E. Goodwin, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Adam Brody, Sam Richardson, Ray Nicholson, Chris Lowell, Max Greenfield, Alfred Molina, Molly Shannon

Jump to Sections:
| Video | Audio | Bonus | Closing | Screenshots
Full Blu-ray Tech Specs at bottom

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The Movie

“Promising Young Woman” is a 2020 film that would be best categorized under the genre of a dramatic thriller as well as a dark comedy. This movie was both written and directed by Emerald Fennell, best known for being an actress as well as briefly a writer/producer on the second season of the BBC TV series “Killing Eve” (specifically in 2019). She had previously directed a short film and this marks her directorial debut of a feature full-length film. It is worth noting that actress Carey Mulligan, who plays the lead role in this, served as an executive producer.

The protagonist of this story is an attractive, yet strange, semi-charming, sarcastic, witty, standoffish, young woman named “Cassie” (Carey Mulligan) who lives a very unusual and disturbing double life. At day she works at a coffee shop barely doing her job as a barista, spending most of her time talking to her boss “Gail” (Laverne Cox). She lives with her parents still, despite having dropped out of medical school. By night Cassie spends her time mostly going to clubs and trying to appeal to guys wanting to take advantage of her being trashed, presumably on alcohol. What the unsuspecting men don’t know is that she’s pretty messed up in the head from some traumatic event from her past and is out for only revenge on the opposite sex. She even goes as far as to keep a notebook and keep track of the men that she encounters on each trip to the clubs or such to find potential rapists. Yes, she’s actually trying to find men that she believes are that type.

Without getting too much further into the details about the film itself without dishing out any “spoilers” I will say that she starts to have some flashbacks (even more than usual for her) when she has an encounter with someone from her past at medical school. One day, a guy named “Ryan” (Bo Burnham) shows up at the coffee shop and she actually manages to pay attention to a customer for once. Eventually, she will find out they used to know one another and the two may try to attempt dating, as strange as Cassie’s romantic status is. Her status for a romantic status would be well, way, way beyond complicated. She might actually try to reignite with someone from her past and have a healthy relationship with a member of the opposite sex, or will she?

It’s most certainly worth noting that this film has received an excellent reception from critics and as a result, at the time of writing this, it is “Certified Fresh” over at Rotten Tomatoes. It also is worth noting that I expect this particular film to be nominated (tomorrow) for multiple “Oscars” (Academy Awards) but I cannot write that yet until it gets announced. So, with that being said, I don’t usually do this but I may come back and update this section of the review after the nominees are announced tomorrow. I personally expect this to get nominated for Best Film, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director. Those all are just my own guesses and the film has not yet been confirmed as nominated for any of those categories (yet). Stay tuned.

Lastly, I most certainly have to say the film “Promising Young Woman” really is something different that is really thought-provoking. It’s dark and could even be considered comedic at times.

Movie Rating: 5 (out of 5)

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Video Quality

“Promising Young Woman” on Blu-ray Disc is presented in the original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. This movie was shot digitally in 2.8K resolution on the Arri Alexa Mini camera with Panavision G-Series anamorphic lenses. It then received a 2K DI (digital intermediate) master. It should be noted though, this film is actually available digitally in 4K, yet it didn’t receive a 4K UHD Blu-ray release from the studio.

Next, let me get technical here, for a bit, in regards to the Blu-ray Disc itself. This release is using a BD-50 (50 gigabytes) disc, 37.52 gigabytes total, and 33.7 gigabytes for the film itself.

This visual presentation comes with a nearly solid black level. The flesh tones feel pretty accurate here and the color palette can definitely be vibrant at times. It has its problems though, all throughout and it’s not an isolated incident type of thing.

This Blu-ray and honestly the movie itself is plagued with an excessive amount of digital noise, and digital compression artifacts that were likely on the original digital footage from the camera(s). This problem happens mainly in scenes with low light conditions that didn’t seem to translate over well for this digitally shot movie. I’ve seen the Arri Alexa Mini camera have these issues on some other films and then also not on some. It makes me think a lot of it really has to do with getting the lighting right for the subject matter in a consistent manner. This has its advantages of being shot at 2.8K and its flaws visible as well pretty much on an equal amount. However, it just seems to add a few imperfections that maybe were intended to be there?

Regardless of the imperfections, if they were intended or not, this could have benefited from better lighting or being shot on 35mm film instead. Still, that latter choice (film) is pricey to do these days, plus the movie is really worth watching and this manages to do it as much justice on the Blu-ray as possible for the content itself, in my honest opinion. “Promising Young Woman” felt promising at times visually and manages to edge by, flaws and all, earning it a 4 rating for video quality. I think, again, my honest opinion is that this is the best the movie can possibly look and that’s because of how it was shot digitally and how, in my opinion, lighting caused some of the problems.

Video Quality Rating: 4 (out of 5)

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Audio Quality

Audio on the Blu-ray Disc release of “Promising Young Woman” comes in English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 along with a DTS 5.1 core for those unable to decode the Master Audio format, as well as Spanish DTS-HD High Resolution 7.1 (with a DTS 5.1 core), and French DTS 5.1 surround. It’s always nice to see foreign [to me] languages getting lossless audio mixes like in this case with the DTS-HD HRA 7.1 in Espanol (Spanish).

That all being said, it does seem a tad bit odd (to me) that this Blu-ray only received a 7.1 mix and not a Dolby Atmos mix, as IMDb lists that it received one during its limited theatrical release and it does in its digital release as well. Regardless, moving on and I’ll now be discussing this 7.1 lossless mix.

The music here really brings a lot to this film and the 7.1 lossless surround sound mix. It’s got a lot of LFE and such not only felt via the subwoofer in a loud nightclub atmosphere with excellent bass but it also will use the rear channels to carry some of that bass over as well. That proves to be very effective and will help make you feel like you’re in the environment the scene is in.

Again with music, around 11 minutes, 20 seconds in you’ll be treated to the beautiful intro to the song “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby” as performed by Donna Missal. This has some extremely impressive use of the rear channels and an amount of LFE you’ll be feeling for a short bit before the song is cut short for a scene. Dialogue is distinct here all throughout, even during scenes in loud nightclubs or such. This mix is really a lot more than I was expecting and turns out to be somewhat killer. Some of you might get what I mean, and I’m sure you will after seeing and hearing this film in a 7.1 surround sound mix. This manages to do a film that would be categorized under the genre of dramatic thriller justice in terms of delivering on a very impressive sound mix that will keep you perhaps on the edge of your seat, so-to-speak or even perhaps literally.

All and all, this sound mix earns itself an admirable at times 4.5 rating for audio quality. It should however be noted that the digital version of the film that you get here contains a Dolby Atmos mix that I found to be superior to this 7.1 lossless mix. I, again, cannot understand why they didn’t put Atmos here on this Blu-ray release but perhaps they [Universal] are saving it for a future 4K physical release?

Audio Quality Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

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Bonus Materials

A Digital Copy of the film (or digital code) is included which is compatible with Movies Anywhere, meaning that you can use it on a variety of online video services such as AppleTV (iTunes), Vudu, FandangoNow, Microsoft Movies & TV, Xfinity, Directv, Verizon, and Google Play (YouTube). This is an HD copy of the film with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound digitally. It should also be noted that the iTunes (AppleTV) version of this includes Dolby Atmos sound, unlike the actual physical release. Also, that version includes all of the same extras found on this release via iTunes Extras.

Bonus materials, on this release, are all presented in HD video quality with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound – unless otherwise noted below. The bonus materials that are on the Blu-ray Disc include:

  • Audio Commentary with the Writer/Director Emerald Fennell is included and was recorded in November 2020 in London during the midst of the pandemic. It obviously was recorded on a phone or laptop microphone and sounds a bit less than the studio-quality audio commentary tracks we are used to, but hey you need to factor in the current situation. She [Fennell, the director] hadn’t even yet seen her film get a limited theatrical and digital release later in December. This proves to be a very enjoyable audio commentary and you’ll learn a lot if you have any questions left after the film is over.
  • “A Promising Vision” (4 minutes, 3 seconds – HD) includes interviews with Emerald Fennell (writer/director/producer), Carey Mulligan (Cassie/executive producer), Bo Burnham (Ryan), Josey McNamara (producer), Laverne Cox (Gail), and Alison Brie (Madison). Along the way, in this featurette, you’ll see some behind-the-scenes on-set footage in between the interviews.
  • “Two-Sided Transformation” (3 minutes, 16 seconds – HD) features interviews with Carey Mulligan (Cassie/executive producer), Emerald Fennell (writer/director/producer), Bo Burnham (Ryan), Alison Brie (Madison), and Nancy Steiner (costume designer). You’ll get clips from the film, sometimes explained, shown throughout the interviews. This focuses on the character of Cassandra, the film’s protagonist.
  • “Balancing Act” (3 minutes, 50 seconds – HD) features interviews with Emerald Fennell (writer/director/producer), Bo Burnham (Ryan), Carey Mulligan (Cassie/executive producer), Alison Brie (Madison), Jennifer Coolidge (Susan), Laverne Cox (Gail), Molly Shannon (Mrs. Fisher), Christopher Lowell (Al Monroe), Max Greenfield (Joe), Adam Brody (Jerry), Connie Britton (Dean Walker), and Clancy Brown (Stanley).

Overall here for bonus materials, you get an audio commentary track from the writer/director, three featurettes, and a digital copy of the film in HD on a variety of video services. It makes for a pretty good set of extras that will leave you with enough to keep you entertained and informed after you’ve watched the film itself.

Bonus Materials Rating: 2.75 (out of 5)

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Closing Thoughts

“Promising Young Woman” from 2020 certainly proved to be one very interesting dark film. Writer/director Emerald Fennell really has made one hell of a directorial debut here with a film that has received multiple award nominations and is sure to receive some more, as mentioned. The performance that Carey Mulligan gives here is just downright amazing and will leave a lasting impression on those who see this movie. The supporting performances here all memorable from the likes of Bo Burnham, Laverne Cox, Alison Brie, Adam Brody, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Clancy Brown, and Jennifer Coolidge. Each and every performance here makes this movie all the better.

Now, I’m going to discuss my own interpretation of this film and I might deal with what some would consider being light ** SPOILERS **, so if you have not seen this film yet: I want you to scroll down until you see the red spoilers text and asterisks again (as seen above) to show that those are over.

The protagonist here could perhaps be what would be considered a serial revenge seeker. Is that a real term? Yes, it seems to be if you do some research. Why does she want revenge on men who try to take advantage of drunk women? You’ll learn as to why and you will learn that she had a friend from childhood who she went to medical school with and she seems to be missing. Is her friend no longer alive? I can’t say that without getting into some spoilers but let’s say she does miss her friend.

This character is seemingly a disturbed and very unhappy sarcastic dark person and it shouldn’t really come as much surprise to those around her that maybe something is going on. She truly was and may still have the potential to be a promising young woman, just as the title suggests and perhaps it [the title] has more meaning to it, which you’ll understand at the end. I won’t say for certain but I will reveal, without “spoilers” intended, that she manages to continue to seek revenge until she finally can get to those who she feels deserve this type of judgment and vengeance dealt upon.

Perhaps she felt her promise was gone, as we first meet this character, and her potential and such feels it was taken from her by other people. She maybe feels that was the case for someone else as well. That’s why she’s really doing all she is doing here. She’s trying to make up for what she feels was taken from her in life, and she lost all desire to attend medical school any further, and that marked the beginning of the end of her promising young woman era. She now feels she lacks that and someone. Can she open up and try to date someone, especially someone from her past? That’s really what you’ll have to watch and find out here, as well as maybe get a surprise along the way.

End of potential ** SPOILERS **.

It’s safe to get back to reading everything below if you have never seen this film before. I didn’t want to ruin the film for anyone and honestly felt that didn’t really deal with anything that I would consider to be a “spoiler” but I wanted to just warn you, in case you felt otherwise.

In terms of video quality, this has some issues but it still manages to deliver a solid presentation as best as the Blu-ray format will allow for with the digital subject material. The flaws include some digital noise in the lower lighting conditions and some digital artifacts as well. Still, it has some somewhat memorable and acceptable quality in over half of the scenes.

In terms of audio quality, this 7.1 lossless mix in DTS-HD Master Audio manages to do the film, its score, and the soundtrack nearly complete justice. It’s impressive and will leave you feeling the moments all throughout. This is a nice surround mix and I found that it was interesting but I wish they had included the Dolby Atmos the film received in its theatrical and digital releases.

The bonus materials here include a digital copy of the film, sadly only in HD and not in the 4K version that includes the sound mix I’ve mentioned above. So that’s a bummer first off, but it’s to be expected I guess? The audio commentary from the writer/director proves to be very enjoyable and informative. I totally suggest giving the commentary track a listen after you’ve finished the film.

Overall, I most certainly feel “Promising Young Woman” in its Blu-ray release makes for A Dark Recommendation.

In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
4 (out of 5) for video quality
4.5 (out of 5) for audio quality
2.75 (out of 5) for bonus materials

Overall Verdict:
A Dark Recommendation

Available As:

2021 Blu-ray Release

Amazon Commissions Earned

Blu-ray Screenshots:


Blu-ray Technical Specifications:

Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1
Exact Runtime: 1:53:28
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (with a DTS 5.1 core), Spanish DTS-HD High Resolution Audio 7.1 (with a DTS 5.1 core) French DTS 5.1 surround
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Disc Size: BD-50
Disc Use: 37.52GB total / 33.7GB for the film