By Lauren Edwards
I often experience writer envy, whether it’s from a gripping book that I have read or an enthralling screenplay that I have watched. When I see a film or television programme where the writing is so superb that the well-known actors who deliver the dialogue become instantly more watchable, I yearn to have the ability to one day achieve a similar feat. So, when I sat awestruck having watched the recently released Promising Young Woman, I was super impressed to find out that not only was it written by the hugely talented Emerald Fennell, but that it was also her directorial debut.
Promising Young Woman stars Carey Mulligan as Cassie, a barista and drop out medical student who goes on a campaign of revenge to seek vengeance for her childhood best friend who was sexually assaulted when they were at college. Cassie hits bars, pretending to be a drunk helpless female waiting for a predatory man to take advantage of her and then serving them with her unique kind of punishment. It is a darkly comedic, nail-bitingly shocking, and twisted thriller.
Fennell’s brave script is an important and topical subject considering events over the past few years, first with the #MeToo movement and then with the frustration that women felt in the aftermath of the tragic murder of Sarah Everard, which we discussed in the AION article Lock up your daughters. It has provoked an important conversation about sexual assault and the blame that some female victims receive for their own actions of being ‘too drunk’ or ‘dressing provocatively’ which has resulted in accusations being dismissed.
The film was nominated for five Oscars and Fennell was awarded the Oscar for best original screenplay. She is the first woman to win this award since Diablo Cody won it for Juno 13 years earlier. Fennell also won awards for best original screenplay at Bafta and the Writers Guild.
They said write a speech and I didn’t because I didn’t think this would ever happen.Emerald Fennell
Any fans of The Crown will know Emerald Fennell for her impressive performance as Camilla Parker-Bowles. Fennell has also played Vanessa in Vita & Victoria, Nurse Patsy Mount in Call the Midwife and starred in both The Danish Girl and Anna Karenina.
Born in Hammersmith, London, Fennell attended the prestigious Marlborough College, (whose alumni include the Duchess of Cambridge and her sister Pippa Middleton) before moving to Oxford University where she studied English and acted in a variety of university plays, which led to her being spotted by an acting agent.
Along with her talent for acting, Fennell is also a published children’s author having written several children’s fantasy novels called The Shiverton Hall series, as well as the adult horror book Monsters. In 2018, Fennell joined her close friend and writing genius Phoebe Waller-Bridge as head writer for the second season of Killing Eve. Just a year later, Fennell wrote and directed Promising Young Woman.
“The very fact that we have got to 2021 and still Emerald is the first British female filmmaker to get nominated for the best director? That’s wild.Carey Mulligan
Fennell made Oscar history by becoming the first British woman to be nominated as a director for her debut film. Australian actress Margot Robbie’s production company, LuckyChap, were the producing team behind Promising Young Woman. As I discussed in my article Rom Coms, there appears to be a distinct lack of women leading the way in the film industry, but the tide appears to be turning with writers and directors like Fennell receiving well deserved accolades for their work.