The Magnifying Glass of Truth

The film Promising Young Woman (directed by Emerald Fennell [Focus Features, 2020]) provides a powerful example of what it looks like when the magnifying glass of truth is put up to those who view themselves as the “good guys.” In the aftermath of the sexual assault (and subsequent implied suicide) of her best friend, Cassie is determined to make those who were guilty and complicit (and those who do similar things) face the darkness within them and the harm they caused. The guilty people Cassie confronts are played by actors who often play nice guys on TV or in the movies. We expect to like them. It’s those people who are shown to be capable of great evil. Everybody involved—the friends who watched and let it happen, the people who laughed, the people who didn’t stand by the victim but blamed her, the medical school dean who did nothing to help, the lawyer who bullied the victim, the rapist himself—have been making excuses for themselves for years, and even when confronted, virtually everyone continues to justify themselves. Everyone except for the lawyer who now cannot sleep at night and knows exactly what he deserves for his sin. “I will never forgive myself,” he says and expects to face some sort of harsh punishment. To this man, Cassie shows mercy. She is genuinely shocked at his repentance. In the end, he is given an opportunity to begin to make things right. Being shown our sin is a mercy. It brings us to a crossroads where we can persist in the untruthful stories we tell about our own goodness or we can submit ourselves to the humbling of confession and repentance—a path that ultimately leads to life.