Cassie plots the denouement to her own story, and though he knows the risk she’s taking, for her it’s worth it.
Without Nina, Cassie sees herself as half a person (she wears a chain with half a pendant on it, while Nina had the other half). Cassie knows she might well die, and that her plans for post-mortem justice could so easily go awry. Women are often badly served by police and the law, after all.
Cassie’s best friend Nina had been raped at university by a man named Al Monroe. The attack had been filmed by another student and the footage circulated. Nina had then dropped out of university, with Cassie also leaving her studies to care for her. Nina then killed herself.
Ryan coming back into Cassie’s life has given her a chance to worm her way back into that social group. She befriends former classmate Madison (Alison Bree) over lunch, pretending to be drunk while plying Madison with alcohol. She then allows a drunk Madison to be taken up to a hotel room by a man Cassie knows (hopes!) won’t do anything, so Madison will wake up disorientated and frightened but physically unharmed. Cassie eventually reassures Madison that nothing happened to her; as a parting shot Madison gives Cassie an old phone with the footage on, demanding that she never see Cassie again.
The footage shows Ryan is one of the bystanders, and Cassie threatens to make it public if he doers’t tell her where Monroe’s Batchelor Party is.
Cassie is killed by Al Monroe after she pitches up at his weekend batchelor party dressed as a stripper dressed as a nurse. As I said in my review, Fennell uses colour to illustrate the boldness and danger of “out there”. Now Cassie’s hair is rainbow coloured — this is the pinnacle of the dangerous outside world.
When she arrives at the party, Al is now a “good man” and makes it clear he didn’t want a stripper and doesn’t want to go upstairs. She tells him she won’t get paid if they don’t go up and that she won’t actually do anything to him. Once up there she uses fluffy pink handcuffs to attach him to the metal bedstead, then discovers he can’t even remember Nina’s name.
She tells him she’s going to carve Nina’s name on his body so he can’t forget again. He fights back as she sits on top of him, breaking one hand free of the cuffs, turning her over and pushing a pillow down on her face. He holds it there until she is dead. It takes an age for her to die, her white-stockinged leg still twitching, her arm flailing until he holds it down.
It’s clear from his face as he continues suffocating her that this is punishment not self-defence. In the morning his awful friend Joe comes in, and on finding out what has happened helps Al take the body outside and burn it under a pile of logs.
Cassie’s parents call the police when she doesn’t return; they visit Ryan but he pretends she had told him she had a work trip. At Al and his fiancée Anastasia’s outdoor wedding (complete with tambourine-playing) Ryan gets a series of scheduled messages from Cassie asking him why he though it was over. We also see a flashback of the lawyer Jordan Green receiving a package from Cassie — Madison’s old phone with the video footage, and a request that if Cassie goes missing he should give it to the police. (Jordan had been Al Monroe’s lawyer, and after Cassie tracked him down he had been one of the few people who had shown any remorse for what happened.)
As the wedding continues, there are sirens and the police arrive, taking Al away.
Cassie’s decision to go to the Batchelor party and seek revenge on Al Monroe here forces us to look at what we think about women putting themselves into dangerous situations, and accusations of culpability.
Throughout the film, writer-director Emerald Fennell forces us to confront what we really think about women’s behaviour and the potential consequences. It’s telling that the important male character is not in fact Al, the rapist and later muderer – it’s Ryan, the “nice guy”. Ryan who is diffident and funny, who accepts when he’s screwed up (happening to end up at his apartment block after his date with Cassie), who drinks the coffee she’s spat in because he likes her. Yet Ryan turns out to have been present at the rape, and have done nothing to stop it (and then turned on Cassie when called out on it years later).
The ending also forces us to confront Cassie’s vulnerability, rather than the avenging angel trope she gives herself. Avenging angels especially in rape revenge movies are often in charge. Cassie is, but she’s also vulnerable for lots of reasons, not just physically. Her search for justice is clever, dark and funny but it’s also sad. Her ending leaves her trapped forever, rather than breaking free from what the others did.
Once Cassie is dead, she has no more control over events. Already let down by society and the authorities, she now has to rely on them to do the right thing if she disappears, and that the lawyer Jordan Green will be prepared to act rather than sit on his sofa and weep.
Of course, all of this will also remind everyone of Nina’s name.