Promising Young Woman and Unhinged were movies I liked – a lot. You are maybe not supposed to ‘like’ them; they aren’t meant to be a fun watch. But I applaud the filmmakers in both cases and I sat riveted.
I want them to screen together. I want them to be shown to school-age audiences. And, look, there are other ideas I have that have kept me away from your high school-aged children; whatever promise I may have shown as a potential teacher of today or tomorrow’s youth is gone. Don’t worry. But I still think we should bring back the double feature and we should theme them and use them as teaching moments.
Both movies slipped out into theatres last year – in the reduced state that is movie-going. Already, people were finding ways to not bother with the theatre and then a global pandemic reminded lazy consumers that you really can see almost anything without leaving your couch. But if you made it to the theatre for these films you were treated to vital big-screen energy. Huge performances. Deceptively powerful scripts. And in both cases the filmmakers had, er, fun burying their true point inside another genre.
Promising Young Woman uses dark humour to ram home the unjustness of a society willing to overlook the most vile behaviour if it’s a young man who will no doubt be going places later in life and just needs to let his silliness out eh. He’s young. But when he’s not showing the wrong behaviour he’s showing promise. Please remember that!
Unhinged presents as an action-thriller but it’s a dark read on how society is broken – we would rather stare at our shoes with our phones in the way when presented with true humour horror; hoping that it’s just not us in the firing line. Rage is frightening and if we just close our eyes to it we can forget about it. Someone else’s bad day couldn’t possibly impact on us unless we let it.
Both movies use anger as an energy that becomes the driving force.
You know about these movies already I’m sure. You’re smart and even if you haven’t seen both of them you’re the sort of person that takes on board the new releases as and when they arrive and reads reviews and follows film commentary.
But, basically, Promising Young Woman features Carey Mulligan in the lead as the victim of a deep psychological trauma. She has ‘dropped out’ to avenge the death of her best friend. They were both promising young women, med students. Now one is dead, the victim of rape. The other has taken on board all of that baggage and is hoping to affect change by putting her body on the line, her mind checked out from any other ambition.
Unhinged sees Russell Crowe as your worst road-raging nightmare. He is a Trump-era Men’s Rights Activist shmuck. He is a danger to himself and lives in his own head. That danger spills over into the wider community because his bad day meets up with another road-user’s bad day.
There you go. Those are quick explanations without spoilers. The trailers are there too if you wish.
But, anyway, I walked out at the end of both films thinking many things. I ‘enjoyed’ them – in the case of Unhinged I think it was unfairly written off by people that either don’t like Crowe or didn’t understand how deep the film’s energy is running. Many of the reviews saw something else; a one-note movie-idea. I even read reviews that thought the film’s point was to somehow condone the actions.
Both films tell us humanity has near unbearable darkness. Both films tell us we’re going about things the wrong way. Both films tell us that our ignorance, our heads-down/wasn’t me approach is killing people. Both films are a frightening, and tough watch.
Both films should be shown in schools. To kids as young as 15 or 16 certainly. I wonder if they should be shown to male-identifying students on their own. (But that’s a separate strain of the conversation). Probably it’s better for students of all and any gender to watch in the same room (if it’s a co-ed educational facility). Watch. And learn and discuss.
I was joking when I said this isn’t the only idea that has stopped me from teaching your children. My own version of checking-out, maybe more to do with laziness than any trauma, stopped me years ago from moving into one of the most important and still under-valued jobs in this society.
But I had such a visceral reaction to both films – and within minutes of seeing them, both of them, I had the same thought: These films belong together. They are linked. They are examining aspects of similar problems. They should be taught. They should be shown in schools. They are spiritually connected on some level. Its sad but true. The best we could do is use them in that way and hope to learn from them.