Carey Mulligan: The Nuanced Heroine

Happy birthday to Carey Mulligan, one of the most inspiring actors of our time! 

Carey Mulligan is an actor known best for her critically-acclaimed performances in An Education and Promising Young Woman. Born in Westminster, London, Carey has been dedicated to her craft from a young age, performing in various theatrical productions at the boarding school she attended. At 20, Carey was cast in her first professional production, Forty Winks at the Royal Court Theater in London. 

Carey’s breakout role was An Education in 2009, a role which instantly shot her into widespread recognition. In the film, directed by Lone Scherfig and based on the memoir by Lynn Barber, Carey played Jenny Mellor, a bright and ambitious teenager who is seduced by an older man. In this role, Carey showcases wit, confidence and charm, but also a profound emotional depth as her character navigates a truly damaging situation. In a review of An Education, FF2 Editor-in-Chief Jan Lisa Huttner says, “Carey Mulligan is lovely as Jenny. She’s smart and pretty and carries the center with a quick tongue, expressive eyes, and graceful body language.” Carey received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for this role. 

Following An Education, Carey took on a wide range of roles, showcasing her versatility and keen ability to bring any character to life. In 2015, Carey starred alongside Meryl Streep and Helena Bonham Carter in Suffragette. Carey plays Maud Watts, a working-class woman who becomes inspired by the suffragette movement, who becomes increasingly more involved in fighting for women’s rights. In the film, Carey’s performance is marked by a quiet intensity; she portrays a woman’s power with nuance and depth as she brings the audience on her journey from obedient to rebellious. 

Carey’s performance is marked by a quiet intensity; she portrays a woman’s power with nuance and depth as she brings the audience on her journey from obedient to rebellious. 

In 2017, Carey starred in Dee Rees’s Mudbound. Set in the Mississippi Delta during the 1940s, the film explores the intersecting lives of two families, one Black and one white: the McAllans and the Jacksons. In the film, they navigate the harsh realities of racism, poverty, and post-war trauma in different ways based on their identities. Carey played Laura McAllan, a woman navigating her own identity beyond being a wife and mother. 

Though in some ways Laura acts as a contrast to her Black counterpart, Florence Jackson, showing privilege and power in comparison to the Jacksons, Carey portrays the role with its own complexity. In a review of Mudbound, FF2 contributor Katharine Cutler states, “There are many moments where we see Laura be forced to endure things she doesn’t like because of society’s expectations of women at the time. Laura’s voiceover gives us a peek into her thoughts, and while not always progressive, they paint a picture of who she is.”

Carey’s performance in Promising Young Woman (2020) truly swept the nation. Playing Cassie Thomas, a woman seeking revenge on men who take advantage of women, Carey is absolutely captivating in this film. She brings a mesmerizing intensity to Cassie, perfectly balancing her character’s vulnerability, determination, and dark humor. She navigates Cassie’s intricate emotional journey with precision, capturing her pain, anger, and resilience. 

Carrie’s performance is marked by a fierce determination that radiates through her eyes and body language. For her role in Promising Young Woman, Carey received another Oscar nomination for Best Actress. 

For every character she plays, Carey Mulligan not only tells a story beautifully but also changes the way the audience thinks. Carey’s ability to portray women with intelligence and dreaminess, strength and vulnerability, and wit and sadness has been a true gift to the female characters of our time. 

© Julia Lasker (5/28/2023) FF2 Media


Read Amelie Lasker’s tribute to Carey Mulligan here.

Read Jan Lisa Huttner’s review of An Education here.

Read Brigid Presecky’s review of Suffragette here.

Read Lindsy Bissonnette’s review of Mudbound here.

Read Katharine Cutler’s review of Mudbound here.


Featured photo: “Carey Mulligan” by Eva Rinaldi is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Tags: Academy-Award, actress, An Education, Carey Mulligan, female actress, Forty Winks, Mudbound, Oscar, Promising Young Woman, Suffragette

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As an associate for FF2 Media, Julia writes reviews and features for films made by women. She is currently a senior at Barnard College studying Psychology. Outside of FF2, her interests include acting, creative writing, thrift shopping, crafting, and making and eating baked goods. Julia has been at FF2 for almost 4 years, and loves the company and its mission dearly.
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