PARK CITY, Utah – Carey Mulligan has given some of her best performances as women who refuse, sometimes quietly and sometimes not, to accept the circumstances that life has dealt them. We met some of those characters for the first time here at the Sundance Film Festival: Think of her as the restless London student rejecting conservatism and embracing her curiosity about the world in “An Education” (2009), or the Montana woman openly revolting against her feckless husband in “Wildlife” (2018).
Both those pictures were set in the 1960s, and in both of them Mulligan came off as a thoroughly modern creature born before her time, shrewdly taking stock of her situation and weighing the possibilities of an escape. Her attention-grabbing new movie, “Promising Young Woman,” which premiered at Sundance this week, is an altogether different beast: an incisively plotted, tonally mischievous revenge thriller set in the present day. But on closer examination, it may be less of a departure from those earlier pictures than a progression.