Credit: Courtesy of Focus Features

Promising Young Woman, the dark comedy starring Carey Mulligan which is tipped to win big at the upcoming Oscars, is going to be streamed for free to college students.

The film, which is the feature-length directorial debut of Emerald Fennell (Killing Eve season 2’s showrunner and writer), is focused around the aftermath of a sexual assault on campus, showing the main character Cassie (Mulligan) dealing with immense trauma and PTSD years on from the incident. 

After dropping out of med school alongside her friend Nina, who was sexually assaulted at a campus party while the pair were studying medicine, Cassie lives at her parents’ house working at a cafe by day and trying to get justice for her friend by night.

Since its release, Promising Young Woman has been lauded for the way it explores the long-lasting impacts of trauma. Instead of showing a victim right after the fact and focusing on the failing legal system or the hunt for the perpetrator, viewers are instead forced to see just how much of an impact actions can leave on a person, and how much one event can change the course of the rest of their lives. 

Credit: Courtesy of Focus Features

The film also shows Cassie exploring how society works in numerous ways to protect perpetrators. Cassie explores the motivations and rationalisations of those who either stood by when the assault occurred, sought ways to distance themselves after, or assisted in the subsequent cover-up. These scenes showcase microcosms of similarly problematic relationships between survivors and society and how these systems work to protect perpetrators in a myriad of different ways; from the obvious—how the legal system and institutions fail survivors—to the more ambiguous—those who reinforce it through inaction.

Promising Young Woman is a 360-degree look at the dichotomy of rape culture: It wasn’t just a group of men, it was the system around them that enabled them both to not see or feel the consequences of their actions. It asks the question, why are promising young men considered more important than promising young women?

Now, Focus Features, the film’s backer, has partnered with RAINN, the US’s largest anti-sexual violence organisation, to host virtual screenings of the film on April 15. Immediately after the viewing, Laverne Cox, who plays Cassie’s best friend in the film, will moderate a conversation with her co-star Mulligan and Fennell.

Merie Weismiller Wallace / Focus Features
Credit: Merie Weismiller Wallace / Focus Features: (L to R) Actor Carey Mulligan, writer / director Emerald Fennell and actor Laverne Cox on the set of Promising Young Woman, a Focus Features release.

Statistically, 13% of all students experience sexual assault or rape during their time at school, according to a press release. By bringing the film to students, Focus and RAINN hope to continue the conversation against sexual assault and violence on college campuses. 

“Sexual violence can affect not only the survivor, but the people and communities around them,” Heather Drevna, RAINN’s vice president of communications, said in a statement. “Promising Young Woman has sparked important conversations about the cultural response to sexual assault, healing, justice and bystander accountability.”

Students can RSVP for the free screenings and conversation here.

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